Welcome back to another season of Yankees baseball and welcome back to our About Last Night feature in which we will examine anything from a single at bat to an entire pitching performance depending on what we feel is the big story from the night before. Or in this case, the day before. Today's subject is Masahiro Tanaka, who looked strong for the majority of the time that he was standing on the mound yesterday, but was eventually victimized, as he often was last year, by the long ball.
Here's his spray chart from yesterday:
There's not much happening there, but the big blow is that home run by Carlos Correa in the sixth inning.
Tanaka started Correa off with a 90 mph fastball that was outside and knee-high for a ball. Then he tried to get Correa on an 86 mph splitter that didn't split.
This is where that pitch landed in the strike zone.
The splitter giveth and the splitter taketh away.
And speaking of Tanaka's splitter, I look at two different systems when I'm gathering information for these posts and one system says he threw 40 splitters yesterday and the other one says he threw 51. Their numbers differ on all of the other pitches in Tanaka's arsenal as well because it seems like one system is reading his sinker as a four seamer and the other one isn't. Fun, right?
The most important thing is that both systems show that Tanaka favored his splitter, which isn't surprising because it's his best pitch, and with the way it was moving most of the afternoon, I don't blame him for going to it so much. It's just unfortunate that the game tying home run came off a splitter.
Tanaka's velocity ranged from a low of 72 mph (curveball) to a high of 92 mph (sinker according to Brooks Baseball; a four seamer, according to ESPN Stats and Info).
Some of the balls that were high were pitches that got away from Tanaka and the low ones were either curveballs, splitters or sinkers that the Astros didn't chase.
Overall, it wasn't a bad outing for Tanaka, it's just that the big blow, as I said above, came on a home run. Tanaka gave up 15 home runs in 2014 and 25 last year. That jump is a bit concerning, but it also has to do with how Tanaka was pitching after his elbow injury. If you're not going all out on your pitches and you're holding back, they're not going to land the same way as they did in the past. They're going to be up instead of sinking down and away and that could turn into a death-knell for Tanaka's pitching career. If his split isn't working, he's in major trouble. So if Tanaka is going cut down on the long ball, he is going to need his split to be elite this season.