Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Game 1/2 Analysis: Tanaka Delivers Ace Performance

Tanaka's line in this afternoon's start was one worthy of an ace headline. Tanaka pitched eight full frames, allowing just two hits and no runs. He struck out ten batters and walked only one in his 106 pitch performance. He could easily have pitched into the ninth, as his pitches became better as the game progressed but Girardi decided to keep him fresh being that it is only April 16th and the Yankees still have a whole season to play. Combine that with Tanaka making so much, the Yankees wouldn't want to risk injury for one more inning against the Cubs in April; it wouldn't be worth the loss in the long run. On an interesting side note, Tanaka has now surpassed Al Leiter's 25 strikeouts in his first three career starts as a Yankee, with 28 K's in his first three games. On top of his 28 strikeours, Tanaka is 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA which signals the ace conversation. Perhaps the sunlight contributed to Tanaka's outstanding performance, as many pitchers (like Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda) prefer(red) to pitch during the day or their numbers just reflected the sentiment.

Entering the season, there was much doubt surrounding Tanaka and his ability to adjust to Major League Baseball. The 25 year old certainly looks like he has been pitching in the states for his entire career, as he has yet to be vulnerable in any of his first three starts for the Yankees. If the ace pitcher can continue at his current rate, he will be the Yankees Opening Day starter for many years to come, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. He is new to the league and a majority of the teams have not even faced him yet. After this season, we will be able to make a judgement call on Tanaka. However, that doesn't take away from his brilliance on the mound today. I have to give credit to catcher Brian McCann, who has made it his mission to get to know the pitchers on the staff and lead them to success in calling the game from behind the plate.

The Yankees offense started out with a bang courtesy Carlos Beltran, who was named AL Player of the Week for last week. He homered to open the scoring in the first inning. The one run would be all Tanaka and the Yankees would need as they shut out the low scoring Chicago Cubs. The remaining two runs scored by the Yankees came on a sac fly by Dean Anna and on an RBI groundout by Ellsbury, who also stole his seventh base of the season today. Newcomers Ellsbury and Beltran continue to be the Yankees hot hitters in the early going while players like Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann are still finding their groove. With that said, I now believe that this lineup has come together and will only improve with time, not to mention especially since Mark Teixeira will return from the disabled list on Sunday in Tampa.

In the nightcap, dominant Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees, as he looks to replicate his previous start against the Red Sox where he allowed one run in six innings. Thanks to Tanaka's lengthy performance today, the bullpen is well rested and will be ready in case Pineda's pitch count gets too high or if Girardi sees his effectiveness slipping, which was the case in the seventh inning of his last start.

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