Thursday, May 15, 2014

New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka shines every fifth game

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka arrived from Japan with colossal expectations and a lengthy unbeaten streak many thought would not take long to break against Major League teams.

He’s surpassed those expectations and extended the streak. In a season where consistency has been a team issue, there is no such unpredictability when Tanaka takes the mound every fifth game.

Tanaka moved to 6-0 (eight starts) Wednesday night hurling his first MLB shutout against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Tanaka has a sparkling 2.17 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and has held batters to a measly .214 batting average. He has 66 strikeouts in 58 innings and has walked just seven batters.

The Yankees have found their stopper, their ace and the arm they hope to lean on for years to come. They needed a big performance Wednesday after being beat down by the Mets in the two games at Yankee Stadium.

Tanaka delivered.

What’s been most impressive to me is Tanaka’s demeanor on the mound. We knew of the talent, the splitter, the 34-game streak without a loss in Japan, but we had not witnessed his work ethic or conduct firsthand.

It is difficult to know when Tanaka is struggling or cruising. He displays the same expression, the same piercing eyes and the same look of sheer determination to get the job done.

More than the determination, we see that Tanaka is a humble man. He has described some of his outings as not so good, when in fact they were very good. He’s not satisfied with simply winning and won’t allow himself to be complacent. He wants to be impressive and so far, he’s been more than that.

Yes, he’ll lose a game. He might even turn in a few stinkers along the way. But, Masahiro Tanaka is grounded. He’s shown the willpower to be the best, paired with his immense talent allowing him to be extremely productive on the field. Very few players possess such a combination of traits.

The Yankees took a big leap signing him to a seven-year, $155 million contract. To this point he’s been worth every penny, and looks like an investment which could pay great dividends.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.