The Cy Young Case for Masahiro Tanaka

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Coming into today, Masahiro Tanaka ranks third in the AL in ERA at 3.04, and has more innings pitched than the first place (Michael Fulmer–2.76) and second place (Aaron Sanchez–2.92) pitchers in front of him. He’s also third in ERA- at 71. His 3.23 FIP is second only to Corey Kluber’s 3.18 mark; despite that, though, Tanaka leads the AL in fWAR at 5.0 (over Kluber’s 4.7) and FIP- at 73. At 1.07, his WHIP is sixth in the league. WPA? 4th at 2.31. Long and repetitive story short, if there is an important pitching category this year, Tanaka is top-ten in that category.

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

There are plenty of good candidates this year and given that, it’s not likely that TANAK takes home the hardware this year. However, this is obviously his best chance to garner votes for the award, something he hasn’t done in his first three years of service to the Yankees. Thanks to this big year, there’s been talk lately of Tanaka’s place among the game’s best pitchers and to what degree he’s been underrated by Yankee fans or the league at large.

Since 2014, he ranks tied for fourth in the American League in ERA at 3.11; 11th in FIP at 3.42; and 8th in fWAR at 10.4. As an added bonus, he’s also fourth in K-BB% at 19.0 and fifth in WPA at 5.15. There’s not a whole lot anyone could say–with a slight exception for durability concerns–that could convince me that Tanaka hasn’t been one of the American League’s top pitchers since he moved over from Japan.


If you were to ask a handful of random baseball fans about where Tanaka ranked among they game’s best, I doubt they’d have him up where he belongs. Maybe that’s because the Yankees haven’t been as prominent in the last few seasons. Maybe that’s because he hasn’t pitched as many innings. Maybe that’s because he doesn’t always appear to be completely dominant. But regardless of that, Tanaka is, no doubt, a top pitcher in the AL. He’s able to change up his game seemingly from start-to-start to suit his opponent and is able to battle even without his best stuff thanks to his creativity and array of pitches. It’s not always worth it to get into the underrated/overrated debate because it’s so subjective, but this one feels different. There’s a part of me that thinks Yankee fans haven’t, in general, been as appreciative of Tanaka and his performance as they could or should have been over the last three years. It’s likely due to those same issues above, but it still bothers me. Since CC Sabathia was his old self in 2012, the Yankees haven’t had anyone pitching at the level Tanaka has been for a while now.

More than two years ago, over at IIATMS, I wrote a piece about the anticipation behind and ahead of the acquisition of Masahiro Tanaka. Not for the most part, but in totality, Tanaka has lived up to the hype.

DotF: Bichette homers, helps Trenton advance to Eastern League Championship Series

Some notes before we get to today’s postseason action:

  • RHP Dillon Tate and RHP J.P. Feyereisen have been added to the Scottsdale Scorpions roster, according to the Arizona Fall League transactions page. Tate needs all the work he can get right now, so it’s good to see he’s going. The Yankees have one open AzFL roster spot and the hope is it will go to RHP James Kaprielian, assuming his elbow heals up in time.
  • Speaking of Tate, Grace Raynor wrote about the right-hander and not just his tough 2016 season, but his rise from unknown high school hurler to fourth overall pick in the draft. “I’m like, ‘Are you sure (you want to trade me)? Because I’m gonna come back,'” he said when asked about the deal.
  • 2B Nick Solak and OF Billy McKinney both made today’s Prospect Report. I’m curious to know if the Yankees changed anything mechanically with McKinney. He hit one homer in 88 games with the Cubs and has four in 38 games with the Yankees, including playoffs.

Triple-A Scranton swept their first round postseason series. They’ll play either Gwinnett or Columbus in the best-of-five International League Championship Series. That series doesn’t start until Tuesday, so they’ve got the next few days off.

Double-A Trenton (3-2 win over Reading) they won the best-of-five series in four games … they’ll play either Akron or Altoona in the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series starting next week .. Akron is up two games to one in that series

  • SS Tyler Wade: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — went 2-for-15 (.133) in the four games
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K — went 5-for-16 (.313) in the four games
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — alternated no-hit games with two-hit games in the series
  • 1B Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — he went 5-for-13 (.385) and drove in five runs in the four games
  • RF Billy McKinney: 2-3, 1 BB — three straight two-hit games to close out the series
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1/5 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) — 65 of 95 pitches were strikes (68%) … only his eighth start of the season after spending most of it in the bullpen
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 12 of 17 pitches were strikes (71%) … allowed one hit and no walks in four innings in the series … he struck out six

[Read more…]

Tanaka dominates, Yankees beat Rays 5-1 for seventh win in a row

I don’t know if the Yankees are going to make the postseason this year, but dammit, they’re putting up one hell of a fight right now. They haven’t been this entertaining since 2009. The Yankees beat the Rays for their seventh straight win Saturday afternoon, this one by the score of 5-1. It’s Saturday, so let’s bullet point the recap:

  • Ma-Cy-hiro: At this point Masahiro Tanaka has to be on the short list of AL Cy Young candidates. Tanaka held the Rays to one stupid little run — a solo homer to the second-to-last batter he faced — in 7.1 otherwise dominant innings. He actually ran his pitch count up in the first and second innings before settling down. Tanaka retired 18 of 20 at one point, and one of the two baserunners was an infield single. One run, five hits, no walks, ten strikeouts. Domination.
  • Belly to Belly: Tanaka was excellent and the Yankees need him to be, because they didn’t muster anything against Chris Archer until the sixth inning. Brett Gardner singled, then Jacoby Ellsbury launched a two-run home run to right field for the 2-0 lead. Gary Sanchez followed with a solo homer. The back-to-back blasts gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead, and with the way Tanaka was pitching, that felt mighty comfortable.
  • The Late Innings: Tampa’s best chance to make this a game was in the seventh. Tanaka gave up the solo homer to Bobby Wilson, then grazed Logan Forsythe with a pitch. Adam Warren took over, hit Nick Franklin in the foot with an 0-2 pitch, then got Evan Longoria to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. That was that. Sac flies by Sanchez and Didi Gregorius stretched the lead to 5-1 in the eighth. Easy peasy.
  • Leftovers: As you can see in the video above, Sanchez’s eighth inning sac fly was no ordinary sac fly. They were trying to intentionally walk him, but he shuffled over and drove the ball to the damn warning track. Unreal … Rob Refsnyder saved a run in the sixth with a running catch in right and an accurate throw home, forcing the runner to stay at third … Gardner and Ellsbury each had two hits … the bottom four hitters in the lineup went a combined 0-for-12 with four strikeouts … Richard Bleier and Tyler Clippard nailed things down in the ninth.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees will be one game back of the second wildcard spot regardless of who wins tonight’s Orioles-Tigers game. They have climbed to within three games of first place of the AL East though. How about that? Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees will try for their eighth straight win in the series finale Sunday afternoon. That’s a normal 1pm ET start. The Yankees have not won eight straight games since their ten-game winning streak in June 2012. Luis Cessa and Matt Andriese will be on the mound for the finale. Fun fact: Andriese served up the back-to-back homers by Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge in their debuts last month.

Game 141: Keep Pace

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Here’s the reality of today: the Yankees can not gain ground in the wildcard race. They can only lose ground. The Orioles and Tigers are tied for the second wildcard spot, and since they’re playing each other, one is guaranteed to win. The Yankees can, at best, keep place in the wildcard race today. That’s a bummer, but it is what it is.

The Yankees can only control their games. No sense in worrying about the Orioles and Tigers. The Bombers are trying for their seventh straight win this afternoon, and even though they have their ace on the mound, it would behoove the offense to score early and often. The bullpen is in a perpetual state of being worn down these days, and several end-game relievers figure to be unavailable. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Brian McCann
  7. RF Rob Refsnyder
  8. 1B Tyler Austin
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s hot, humid, and a bit cloudy in New York today. There’s no rain in the forecast, thankfully. None of us want to see Mike Everitt jump the gun and call for the tarp again. This afternoon’s game will begin at 4:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Update (3:40pm ET): The internet lied to me. Can you believe that? It’s raining right now. It’s not supposed to be a long shower though, so the game will begin soon enough.

Update (3:59pm ET): The Yankees say the game will begin at 4:30pm ET or so.

Saturday Links: A-Rod, Rowson, Braves, Gardner


Later this afternoon the Yankees and Rays will continue their four-game series with the third game at Yankee Stadium. First pitch isn’t until 4pm ET, so here are some miscellaneous links to help you pass the time.

A-Rod expected to appear at Instructs

According to Brendan Kuty, Alex Rodriguez is expected to make an appearance at Instructional League later this month. As a special instructor, of course. Not as a player. “I’m very pleased to have somebody with Alex’s experience and time in the game to be able to share those experiences with our young players. Our best young players are all going to be part of Instructional League,” said farm system head Gary Denbo.

This year’s Instructs roster hasn’t been released yet but it’ll come out soon enough. It’s usually a collection of top prospects, recent draftees, and players who missed time due to injury. Greg Bird will face live pitching for the first time since shoulder surgery in Instructional League, for example. My guess is A-Rod will wind up spending a bunch of time with the team’s small army of middle infield prospects, specifically Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo.

Rowson joins Yankees

Minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson joined the Yankees earlier this week and has been with the team since, reports Dan Martin. Rowson has worked with Aaron Judge a ton over the years. “He’s trying to get comfortable here. Everything is new to him and he’s had his battles before and made the adjustments,” said Rowson. “He’s been through rough times, especially with the punch outs and he’s always come out on the other side. So I feel like he’s going to do that again.”

This is not all that uncommon, really. A handful of minor league coaches will join the big league team for a homestand in September pretty much every year. Every single one of the Yankees’ full season minor league affiliates qualified for the postseason this year though, so those coaches and instructors haven’t had a chance to come up yet. This isn’t Rowson’s first stint with the big league team and it won’t be his last. Chances are he didn’t join the team specifically to work with Judge.

Update: Minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell is with the Yankees as well, reports Chad Jennings.

Yankees to open SunTrust Park


The Yankees and Braves will open the brand new SunTrust Park with an exhibition game on Friday, March 31st next year, the Braves announced. Apparently only “A List Members” (season ticket holders) will be allowed to attend. Lame. Atlanta is moving into their new 41,500 seat ballpark just 20 years after moving into Turner Field. The Yankees and Braves opened Turner Field with an exhibition game in 1996 as well.

This year the Yankees closed out Spring Training with a pair of exhibition games at Marlins Park. Last year they played two at Nationals Park. The Cubs came to New York for two exhibition games in 2009, when the new Yankee Stadium opened. They do this stuff every year. Also, the fact this exhibition game is scheduled for March 31st suggests the 2017 regular season will begin on Monday, April 3rd. Next year’s schedule should be announced soon. Possibly next week.

Gardner nominated for Roberto Clemente Award

Brett Gardner is the Yankees’ nominee for the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award, MLB announced. Here are the nominees from each team. The award is given each year to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Three Yankees have won the award: Derek Jeter (2009), Don Baylor (1985), and Ron Guidry (1984).

Amazingly, MLB turned an award recognizing community involvement — and an award named after an iconic player and a great humanitarian — into a popularity contest. Each nominee has an official hashtag and the player who receives the most votes on Twitter and Facebook will win. Incredible. MLB really knocked this one out of the park, eh? I’m sure fans will recognize each player’s off-the-field work and definitely not vote for their favorite player. No way.

Yanks survive the rain, beat Rays 7-5 for sixth straight win

Well that was an ordeal. After 346 total pitches and three rain delays totaling one hour and 34 minutes, the Yankees beat the Rays 7-5 on Friday night for their sixth straight win. With the Orioles losing to the Tigers, the Yankees are now one game back of the second wildcard spot. What a time to be alive.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Snell Ya Later
Man, was a rough outing for Rays rookie Blake Snell. He only allowed three runs, but it would have been worse had the Yankees not had a runner thrown out at the plate in the first, and if Snell hadn’t thrown out his glove and knocked down a surefire run-scoring single in the second. The Yankees forced the poor kid to 88 pitches (!) in 2.2 innings. The first three innings took about an hour and 20 minutes. Snell threw lots of pitches and had a brutal pace.

The game’s first run scored because the Rays don’t seem to care about defense anymore. They seemed to forget about it last year. Jacoby Ellsbury started the game with a single, then Rob Refsnyder stroked a line drive to left field that probably would have been caught by an average defensive outfielder. Luckily Corey Dickerson was out there, and he took a weird route to Refsnyder’s ball, allowing it to get by him and roll all the way to the wall. Ellsbury scored from first for the 1-0 lead.

There are two reasons Refsnyder was thrown out at home on Starlin Castro‘s single to center later in the inning. One, third base coach Joe Espada made a terrible send. Kevin Kiermaier has a great arm and Espada waved Refsnyder in anyway. And two, Refsnyder hesitated twice. Once off the bat to make sure it wouldn’t be caught, and again as he rounded third base. It seemed like he was surprised Espada sent him. The play at the plate was not close.

Rob Refsnyder Kevin Kiermaier

It always sucks having a runner thrown out at the plate, especially in the very first inning, but at least the Yankees had a run on the board. Snell looked beatable too. Back-to-back two outs walks by Aaron Judge and Ellsbury gave New York another rally in the second inning. Refsnyder ripped a line drive after working the count full, so he had a quality at-bat. Unfortunately Snell threw his glove out and knocked it down. Nothing you can do there. Straight up bad luck. Snell stopped the ball from going into center field and scoring a run. The lead remained 1-0.

By that point the Yankees had really worn Snell down. He threw 60 pitches in the first two innings, and the slumping Gary Sanchez started the third with a solo home run into Monument Park. Sanchez will be fine. His at-bats have been good and he hasn’t been chasing out of the zone. Just a slump. It happens. Snell left a fastball up and Sanchez clobbered it. A Mark Teixeira double, a fielder’s choice, and a wild pitch made it 3-0 Yankees later in the inning. That was it for Snell. Night over.

A Little of Good Pineda, A Little of Bad Pineda
Michael Pineda came out of the gate throwing fire. His slider was falling off the table and he even threw some quality changeups in the first inning. Pineda’s stuff looked very good in the first three innings, during which he struck out six of 12 batters while allowing two soft singles and a walk. He got 13 swings and misses in his first three innings. Thirteen is good number for a full start. He did it in three innings.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

But, of course, Pineda did not carry that stuff through the rest of the game. Logan Morrison and Steven Souza combined for back-to-back solo homers in the fourth inning — Morrison’s was a bomb into the suite level, Souza’s hit the foul pole in left — to turn that 3-0 lead into a 3-2 lead. The homers came on consecutive pitches too. It goes from good to bad so quickly for Pineda. Dominant for three innings, then boom, it’s a one-run game.

Crew chief Mike Everitt jumped the gun a bit in the fourth and called for the tarp, though it stopped raining only a few minutes later. It was a 21-minute delay. Pineda came back out for the fifth inning because the delay was so short, and after a quick first out, he walked Logan Forsythe and allowed an infield single to Kiermaier. Castro got to the ball but couldn’t reel it in. Longoria beat the throw on a potential inning-ending double play to extend the inning.

Joe Girardi was taking no chances. The Yankees had stretched the lead to 7-2 (more on that in a bit), but the Rays had runners on the corners, and Pineda has simply earned zero trust this season. Girardi yanked him at 77 pitches and Pineda didn’t even look at him on the mound before walking off. He was pretty annoyed at the quick hook. Went right to the clubhouse too. Didn’t wait for the inning to end. (He returned to the dugout a few minutes later.)

Chasen Shreve struck out Brad Miller to strand the two runners, so Pineda was charged with two runs on six hits and two walks in 4.2 innings. He struck out seven and got 19 total swings and misses despite only throwing 77 pitches. That’s his third highest swing-and-miss total of the season. Pineda got 21 whiffs on 113 pitches against the Orioles in July, and 20 on 96 pitches against the Tigers in June. Still though, not a great outing for Pineda despite those first three innings. Same ol’ Mike.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Blown Open
At the time of the first rain delay, the Yankees had a runner on first with two outs in the fourth inning. Kevin Jepsen came in when the game resumed, and he immediately allowed a ground ball single to Sanchez and a walk to Castro. When you walk Starlin Castro, you deserve whatever comes next. In this case that was a grand slam. Teixeira hit a ball off the top of the bullpen wall in right-center that hopped over for a four-run homer and a 7-2 lead.

The Yankee Stadium crowd called Teixeira out for a curtain call and he obliged. That was cool to see. His career is coming to a close and the fans showed their appreciation for eight productive years. Every home run from here on out could be the last of Teixeira’s career. That’s kind of weird. Hopefully that one wasn’t it. The grand slam was the third of the season for the Yankees, by the way. Chase Headley hit one against Jon Gray in June, and Castro hit one against Josh Tomlin last month. I don’t remember either.

More Rain, And Even More After That
Man, what a terrible job by Everitt. Because one unnecessary rain delay was not enough, he called for the tarp a second time in the sixth inning. It stopped raining a few minutes later (again) and the second delay lasted 22 minutes. Sigh. Before that, Shreve was charged with two runs in the sixth, then after the delay things got kinda dicey in the eighth. Tyler Clippard got out of the two on, no out rally in the most Tyler Clippard way possible: with three infield pop-ups.


Dellin Betances started the ninth with a 7-4 lead, allowed back-to-back singles to Kiermaier and Longoria with one out, and then it started raining again. Much heavier this time. Everitt again called for the tarp. Three rain delays, only one of which was actually necessary. The worst.

The third delay lasted 51 minutes, yet despite that, Betances remained in the game. He said he wasn’t going to let Girardi take him out. I don’t blame him. The Yankees have crummy luck with rain delays this year. Dellin did allow a single to Morrison to cut the lead to 7-5, but was able to fan both Miller and Souza to end the game. Thank goodness. You won’t see this one on Yankee Classics anytime soon.

In addition to his solo home run, Sanchez also made an unreal snap throw from his knees to pick Dickerson off second base in the fourth inning. Look at this throw. Just look at it:

Man, what a throw. Sanchez had a single, a homer, a walk, and he picked a runner off second. Pretty nice night for him. The other kids had good nights too. Refsnyder went 2-for-4 with a walk, and both Tyler Austin and Judge went 0-for-2 with two walks. The Yankees drew eleven walks as a team, their most in a nine-inning game since April 2014. Position player Mike Carp walked five that night.

Teixeira, in what has become a rare spot start, went 2-for-4 with a double, a grand slam, and two walks. Really nice night off the bench for him. Teixeira seems to be genuinely enjoying the last few weeks of his career. If he’s upset about not playing more, it’s impossible to tell. He’s become a quality role player for a suddenly contending team.

Shreve (two outs), Adam Warren (four outs), Tommy Layne (one out), Clippard (three outs), and Betances (three outs) all pitched out of the bullpen. Seems like the bullpen will be short again tomorrow, at least in the sense that the big end-game guys may not be available. Good thing there are 13 relievers on the roster.

And finally, Pineda is up to 179 strikeouts on the season. He has a chance to be the first Yankee right-hander with 200+ strikeouts since Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens both did it in 2001. Yeah, it’s been a while. The last Yankee with 200+ strikeouts regardless of handedness was CC Sabathia in 2011. He had 230.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for both the box score and updated standings. has the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages as well. Here’s the win probability graph. This game was weird. It felt like the Yankees were up big, but Tampa had the go-ahead run at the plate in the ninth inning:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Rays will be back at it Saturday afternoon with the third game of this four-game series. That’s a 4:05pm ET start. Masahiro Tanaka and Chris Archer will meet in a matchup of Opening Day starters. There are only eleven home games left this season, so head on over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of them live.

DotF: Scranton finishes sweep, advances to International League Championship Series

Some notes before we get to the day’s postseason action:

  • The Yankees and the Charleston River Dogs have extended their player development contract through 2020, they announced earlier today. Here’s the press release. Charleston, which has been a Yankees’ affiliate since 2005, set a new franchise attendance record this year.
  • C Gary Sanchez was named to’s Prospect Team of the Year, so congrats to him. He did that despite playing only 71 Triple-A games due to a broken thumb and an early-August call-up.
  • Three Yankees appeared in today’s Prospect Report: 1B Tyler Austin, OF Rashad Crawford, and OF Dustin Fowler. Crawford was the fourth piece in the Aroldis Chapman trade and he’s been red hot for a month now.
  • High-A Tampa announced a series of roster moves prior to the start of the Florida State League Championship Series tonight. LHP Justin Kamplain, RHP Alex Bisacca, and RHP Luis Cedeno were added to the roster. RHP Gabe Encinas, RHP Chase Hodson, and OF Devyn Bolasky were dropped.

Triple-A Scranton (11-3 win over Lehigh Valley) they swept the best-of-five series and outscored Lehigh Valley 21-3 in the three games … they’ll play either Gwinnett or Columbus in the best-of-five International League Championship Series starting next week … Gwinnett is up two games to one in their series against Columbus

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-3, 1 R, 1 K, 1 HBP — left the game in the seventh, two innings after the hit-by-pitch … hopefully it was precautionary with the huge lead and not an actual injury
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-3, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 3B Donovan Solano: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — he went 6-for-14 (.429) in the three games
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 2-5, 1 R, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB
  • DH Cesar Puello: 0-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • RF Jake Cave: 2-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — 4-for-10 in the three games
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB
  • 2B Cito Culver: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI — look at Cito with the playoff homer
  • RHP Brady Lail: 4 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 6/1 GB/FB — 43 of 67 pitches were strikes (64%) … he’s had a rough go of it in Triple-A, so they took four good innings and ran with it
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 47 of 80 pitches were strikes (59%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 25 of 35 pitches were strikes (71%)

[Read more…]