Masahiro Tanaka June 2014

What else is there left to write about Masahiro Tanaka that hasn’t been written already? The numbers don’t lie, they tell the story for what Tanaka has meant to the New York Yankees in 2014.

On Tuesday night, Tanaka pitched the Yankees to a win over the Toronto Blue Jays and improved his record to 11-1 this season. He lowered his ERA to 1.99 and once again gave his team a shutdown performance in a must-win game.

One look at how the Yankees have fared this season and it’s scary to imagine where they might be without Tanaka.

The Yankees have been ravaged by injuries for a second consecutive year, and despite an inconsistent pitching staff they still find themselves 3.5 games out of first place in the AL East division.

Now wait … just think about where the Yankees might be if not for Tanaka.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman did everything he could in the spring to downplay Tanaka’s role with the Yankees. They even went as far as trying to convince us that CC Sabathia was still the ace of the pitching staff, despite clear evidence that his body is beginning to break down.

Tanaka is now the ace of the New York Yankees, make no mistake about it.

The last pitcher I’ve seen dominate the scene in New York like this was Dwight Gooden in the 1980s. Gooden was must-see whenever he pitched for the New York Mets. I thought Tanaka would be good, however what he’s done so far is beyond expectations.

In professional football, the phrase “shutdown corner” is used a lot. It means when a team’s top cornerback on defense becomes so good at taking out the opposing team’s best wide receiver on offense that they avoid throwing the football in his direction anymore.

Tanaka has become the shutdown pitcher for the Yankees. Every time they have needed a win, he’s delivered. Opposing teams have been unable to figure him out yet.

The one observation that may stand out the most when talking about Tanaka’s value right now is that when he’s pitching, the Yankees become a must-see ballclub. However, when he’s not out there they have looked average and ordinary.

That’s a testament to what Tanaka has meant to not only the Yankees, but to Major League Baseball in 2014.

He’s the frontrunner for American League Rookie of the Year, a strong candidate for the league’s Cy Young award and arguably the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

What shouldn’t be up for argument or debate is that Tanaka has been the Most Valuable Yankee in 2014.


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