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Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka has earned his pinstripes

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Masahiro Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013, parlaying that success into a $155 million contract over seven seasons with the New York Yankees. So far, it seems like a bargain.

The righthander, who’s slated to take the hill tonight against the Red Sox, throws a variety of pitches, including an array of fastballs (a four-seamer, split-finger, sinker and cutter) to go with a slider and curve. Tanaka’s four-seam fastball has spunk (averaging over 93 mph), but it is his splitter that is getting batters to whiff the most.

“To right-handed hitters, the ones he throws down and away are hardly hittable,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said“And with his ability with the fastball to locate, he can do a lot with two strikes. They can’t sit on one pitch.”

According to BaseballSavant, seven of  Tanaka’s 28 strikeouts have come via a split-finger fastball, more than any other pitch.  He’s thrown it 74 times and 26 of them have generated a swing and a miss. And when a batter does make contact, it hasn’t produced much.

Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs suggests that some regression will come into play, with a caveat: 

[Tanaka] has stuff that hitters chase, and he has stuff that he can move around almost at will. Which means, while his zone rate suggests it might be better to wait him out, Tanaka’s probably capable of pitching well within the zone, and then when you decide to start swinging again, Tanaka can adjust back to splitters and sliders down or away. I’m not sure what I’d recommend for a hitter set to face Tanaka. Probably counseling.

“You can’t ask for any better,” said Yankees’ president Randy Levine.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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