Currently, Masahiro Tanaka is the only really exciting part about the New York Yankees. His starts are always must see events, and he is in definite contention to start the All-Star game.
However, at this point it does not seem like he will do that since he is currently scheduled to pitch July 13th at Baltimore, which is the final game before the All-Star break. The Yankees probably aren’t very upset by this development since they have taken every precaution with Tanaka that they could so far.
The Yankees have had a few chances recently to skip over Vidal Nuno due to off days and keep Tanaka on his regular five days rest. This would seem like an easy call since Tanaka may be the best pitcher in the AL and Nuno may be the worst.
Nuno’s 5.53 FIP is almost as bad as his 5.88 ERA. He doesn’t strike out many batters with his pedestrian stuff, yet he walks 2.94 batters per nine innings. Control and location are supposed to be his strength. He absolutely cannot pitch at Yankee Stadium, as he has a 7.09 ERA and has given up 13 home runs in his home park.
Despite all of this, Joe Girardi has been defiant in keeping his rotation in order and not skipping Nuno. Every game is very important for the Yankees at this point with them being 3.5 games back in the AL East and 1.5 games back of a wild card spot. They do not have the luxury of being a good enough team that they can afford to throw away games with Nuno.
The only reason they are doing this is so they can keep Tanaka fresh. He is still adjusting from pitching once every six days in Japan to once every five days in MLB. The Yankees are looking at the big picture of protecting their seven-year, $155 million investment, which is the smart thing to do.
Perhaps the Yankees are concerned that Tanaka’s fastball only averaged 90.88 MPH on Sunday after averaging 92.84 MPH over the whole season, according to Brooks Baseball. Tanaka always seems to conserve energy in the beginning of games before throwing harder as the game goes along, so this could mean nothing. Maybe it was just a mechanical issue, but it’s something to watch at least.
The Yankees cannot afford for Tanaka to have any slippage. It seems unrealistic for him to keep pitching to 2.11 ERA, but that is pretty much what they need from him. The Yankees are 12-3 in his 15 starts this season, which is what is really keeping them in contention.
It stinks for MLB and Yankees fans that Tanaka is unlikely to pitch in the All-Star game. Without Tanaka the only thing Yankees fans have to look forward to is Derek Jeter making his last all-star game appearance, unless Dellin Betances makes the team and gets in the game. It’s a reminder of what they have had to endure this season.
MLB needs Tanaka in the game even more than Yankee fans. The sport is devoid of huge stars on a national level and Tanaka is a global icon let alone an American one.
MLB can really use some buzz around it with the World Cup being a huge event right now and the NBA and NHL having good postseasons. A big part of the problem is Bud Selig creating league-wide mediocrity. It may help more teams stay in the race, but it does nothing for the game on a national level, which is where it needs to grow.
Tanaka missing the All-Star game is the best thing for the Yankees, but if there really is concern that he is going to tire out at the end of the season it could put a dent into any October plans for them.