credit- Chuck Solomon
According to pretty much every baseball writer ever, Chris Sale is winning the AL Cy Young this year. However, it’s REALLY HARD to predict baseball and it never does what you expect. Who would have thought Rick Porcello, who had a career ERA of 4.39 before the 2016 season would win the AL Cy Young? However, it’s a little easier to make your predictions after you’ve seen the players actually play in Spring Training.
Oh, Spring Training. Almost forgot about that one. Masahiro Tanaka pretty clearly didn’t though. Over 18.2 innings he has given up six hits, 0 runs, 3 walks and 22 strikeouts. That is insane. I know Spring Training isn’t always the best way to measure a player, but pitching that well in any league is a good sign. Let’s look at Tanaka’s stats from last year: 14-4, 199.2 IP, 165 Ks and a 3.07 ERA. In the second half he went 8-2 with a 2.83 ERA. He was 3rd in the AL in ERA and was one out away from 200 IP. Those stats don’t look insane without context, but when you put into account that
-The Yankees play in the kindest home run park in the AL
-The Yankees play in the AL East
-The AL East also featured the Red Sox, Orioles, and Blue Jays, all of which were top 11 in RBI in 2016.
a 3.07 ERA doesn’t look half bad. Tanaka has been one of the game’s most underrated pitchers since he came into the league. Since 2014, Tanaka is 5th in all qualified AL starters in ERA, behind Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Felix Hernandez, and Garrett Richards. Not a bad group to be in. It also helps Masahiro that he plays in a GIGANTIC market in New York where the media can support him, and he is probably the best player on an up-and-coming Yankees team who could compete for a playoff spot this year.
The most important aspect of 2017 for Tanaka is that his contract expires after this year. If he stars and wins the Cy Young, he could be looking at insane money in the offseason, as compared to Sale who is locked up until 2019. Everything’s coming up Tanaka.