Masahiro Tanaka pitched very well in five of his six starts in August and there is a chance that he could win the Cy Young if the can continue pitching like he has recently.
In Tanaka’s last three starts of August he allowed two, zero and zero runs, which lowered his ERA from 3.40 to 3.12. In his two starts before that outstanding three game stretch, he gave up one run in six innings and then four runs in seven innings. He was hurt by the long ball as the Rays hit two homers off of him leading to his four runs, but the Rays only had five hits against him and Tanaka recorded eight strikeouts and no walks, which is a great strikeout to walk ratio.
His ERA during August would have been even better if not for the Mets scoring six earned runs against him on August 2 but his ERA for the month was still a very good 3.00. He had a 3.40 ERA after that start at Citi Field against the Mets and it’s now a much improved 3.12. Also, showing his dominance during the month is that he had 38 strikeouts and only one walk. Only allowing one walk in the span of six starts is outstanding control and rarely seen in major league baseball.
Overall this season, Tanaka is seventh in the American League in ERA (3.12), sixth in the AL in WHIP (1.06) and third in the league in K/BB ratio (5.21). His 4.5 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is the seventh highest among qualified starters in the league, the .268 on-base percentage that opponents have against him is the second best in the league and the .360 slugging percentage that opponents have against him is fifth best in the league.
After the All-Star break this season, Tanaka has really excelled as he allowed two runs or less in six of his nine starts. He allowed zero runs in three of those starts and one run twice.
He will definitely be considered for the Cy Young if he can continue pitching at the success rate that he has after the All-Star break. (He will have to not have another start where he allows six runs.) Tanaka currently is not far from being first in ERA in the AL as Aaron Sanchez, who has made 25 starts this season to Tanaka’s 27, has a 2.88 ERA. Tanaka is also close to the pitchers immediately ahead of him as Chris Sale has a 3.10 ERA and Corey Klueber is in 5th place with a 3.09 ERA.
Tanaka has been by far the Yankees best starting pitcher this season. His 11 wins are most on the team by three, his 3.12 ERA is much lower than any other starting pitcher, his 1.06 WHIP is much better than the other starting pitchers, his 16 quality starts are four more than CC Sabathia who is in second place and he has been able to throw 29 more innings that any other pitcher on the team.
Tanaka, who is 27 and in his third season since coming over from Japan, is also on his way to having his best season in pinstripes since he is on track to pitch the whole campaign. In 2014, his rookie season, he had an excellent 2.77 ERA but that was after pitching only 136.1 innings and 20 starts. He has already made 27 starts this season and thrown 173.0 innings, which makes his performance up until now in this season more impressive than 2014.
He signed a 7-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees before the 2014 season and he is pitching this season like he deserved that contract and is beyond the injury he suffered in 2014. In his rookie season, Tanaka was placed on the disabled list in the beginning of July due to right elbow inflammation and an MRI revealed a partially torn UCL. He ended up returning at the end of September after multiple doctors said that Tommy John surgery was not necessary.
The rookie campaign was very impressive for Tanaka and he has been able to dominate even more this season based on the array of plus pitches that he has. He relies primarily on his sinker (90mph), slider (84mph) and splitter (87mph) while also throwing a four-seam fastball, cutter and curve.