Mr Splitter, you are cordially invited to Yankee Stadium tonight…

Credit:  Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The big question today on everyone’s mind is Masahiro Tanaka.  After two consecutive disastrous starts, where are we?  With an extra day of rest due to yesterday’s rainout, we’ll soon find out.  

Since Tanaka’s gem against the Boston Red Sox on April 27th when he threw a complete game three-hit shutout, the results have not been pretty.  In his subsequent four starts, he has given up 21 earned runs (22 overall).   By definition, the only quality start since that time was his May 8th win over the Cincinnati Reds when he went seven innings, allowing only three earned runs.  But the Reds were able to get their hits against Tanaka as they racked up a total of 10 including a home run by Joey Votto.  In his last two games, Tanaka has lasted a combined total of only 4 2/3 innings and has been hammered for 14 runs and 7 home runs.  

The Yankees have confidence in Tanaka.  During a HOPE Week charity event yesterday, GM Brian offered the following comments:

“We’ve done the ‘CSI: The Bronx’ on him a number of different times.  We’ve gone through the analytics comparison from when he’s flying high to the current low.  There are no indicators other than the splitter’s not splitting like it usually does, and the command of the fastball is off.”

“But in terms of velocity — even swings and misses in the the zone, a lot of background statistics that you try to study to try to measure certain things that are alarming in nature that are off.  So we can’t point to anything other than the fact that I don’t think his splitter is as good as it’s been.  I know that for a fact.  His splitter’s not performing up to what his past standard has been.”

“Other teams are doing damage against him, but there’s no indicator of an injury.  I know the player doesn’t feel that he’s hurt, and I know the pitching coach doesn’t feel there’s an injury relation, either.”

“From an analytics standpoint and front-office perspective, we can’t seem to come up with some reason that would lead us to take that step.  We’re not afraid to do it if we felt that was necessary, but we’re not going to do something that appears to be unnecessary.” (spoken regarding whether the Yankees should have Tanaka undergo a MRI).  

“All indications are no (regarding an MRI exam).  We have all departments on call, whether guys are flying on high and doing well, as well as when guys are struggling.  Whether it’s mechanical, whether it’s something from the analytical side that shows a drop in performance that could lead to why, all those things aren’t indicating there’s an area to pursue on the medical side.”

“Obviously we want everybody playing to their capabilities at all times, but that’s just not how the game works.  It’s just about managing through the down times, and that’s what we’re all here for.”

“Right now he’s in a down stretch and so we’re looking forward to getting him up and running to what we’re used to seeing.”

Credit:  Paul J Bereswill

If Tanaka goes out and pitches at least six innings and gives up no more than 2 or 3 runs, will we feel that this was just a blip on the radar and that all is good?  Or if he strains his neck watching balls fly out of Yankee Stadium, are we going to be fearing the end of the world?  I honestly do not know what to expect with Tanaka’s performance tonight.  We’ll get early indications when we see his first few splitters and how he performs in the all-important first inning tonight against the Oakland A’s.  I am hopeful that these are just mechanical flaws and the typical slump that everyone encounters from time to time.  But if not, I am concerned.  We need the Tanaka that we’ve grown accustomed to and cannot afford a ‘Daisuke Matsuzaka’-type downward spiral.  

The Yankees enter an important three-game set tonight against the Oakland A’s.  While the A’s are only 21-25 this season, the Yankees need to take care of business with a road trip to Baltimore looming on the immediate horizon.  Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups:

TODAY

Athletics:  Kendall Graveman (2-2, 3.83 ERA)

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-3, 6.56 ERA)

SATURDAY

Athletics:  Sean Manaea (2-3, 5.24 ERA)

Yankees:  CC Sabathia (4-2, 4.62 ERA)

SUNDAY

Athletics:  Andrew Triggs (5-3, 2.77 ERA)

Yankees:  Michael Pineda (5-2, 3.35 ERA)

Have a great Friday!  I hope an early ‘splitter’ (from work) is effective for everyone today!

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