Yankees' rotation shaping up nicely with Masahiro Tanaka in the mix

Thursday, January 23, 2014


It's official. He's coming. Masahiro Tanaka is coming to New York just like you wanted, all for the price of $155 million over seven-years.

We had been talking about it all throughout the offseason, that the Yankees needed to add at least one starting pitcher in order to actually contend next season, with Tanaka being the top target. They wanted him badly, and now they got him.

With Tanaka in the rotation, there is no long so many questions surrounding the Yankees' starting five. In fact, there aren't many questions at all.

On paper, the Yankees' will open the season with a rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Tanaka, Ivan Nova, and who ever wins the battle for the fifth spot during spring training -- if he comes in healthy, I'd give Michael Pineda the best chance to win the job.

And that applies to the rest of the rotation, too. Sabathia will be the biggest question mark of the bunch coming into the season.

Coming off the elbow surgery, Sabathia lost a few miles per hour on his velocity, and never seemed capable of making the adjustment to being a high-80's, low-90's pitcher, rather than being the mid-to-high 90's guy that everybody knew him as.

I don't want to state the obvious here, but I believe that had a lot to do with his career-worst season. A lot of people tried to blame it on the fact that he had lost quite a bit of weight during the offseason, and that's why he wasn't the same guy on the mound, but I don't buy it.

If you've seen the pictures that have been going viral around social media, you can see that Sabathia has lost even more weight this winter, some have estimated about 40 pounds.

I think that being a year removed from the surgery will be very good for him. He knows how bad last season was, and he is going to come back in 2014 looking to prove everyone wrong. I'm not saying that he'll be the ace of the staff one again, but a top of the rotation starter is all you can really ask for at this point in a pitchers career -- especially one that has logged as many innings as Sabathia.

With Kuroda, you pretty much know what you're going to get. He's a 39-year-old pitcher that is going to give you a lot of innings. You going to attack hitters, and he's going to get outs when he needs them. He's been very good for the Yankees in his two seasons in the Bronx, and really stepped up last season when the team needed him. Sure he broke down towards the end, but that doesn't make him a bad pitcher.

Because of all of this, and the fact that Joe Girardi likes to use his veteran guys, I think that Kuroda has earned the right to be the team's second starter, even with Tanaka, who will probably slide right behind him in the third spot.

Obviously Tanaka is going to come in with a lot of weight on his shoulder. He just got paid a massive amount of money, and you know that Yankees fans are expecting to pitch like he's worth $155 million.

A lot of scouts have compared him to Yu Darvish, and some have said that he'll be a second or third starter at best. The game is a lot different in American compared to Japan, and if Tanaka is able to be a second or third starter for the length of his contract, I'd say the Yankees did just fine in paying him what they did.

Nova has the potential to team up with Tanaka in a couple of years to create one of the best one-two combinations in the game. He broke into the leagues in 2011 and really showed what kind of pitcher he can be.

But we didn't see much of the greatness again until the second half of the 2013 season, when he came back from injury and spent some time in the minors, then got his chance in July and took off. He was fantastic in August, earning AL Pitcher of the Month honors after going 5-0 with an ERA under 2.00. If he could pitch just under, at least, the level he is capable of pitching, then the Yankees will have the best fourth starter in the game. Realistically, there aren't many fourth starters as talented as Nova.

Then that's where you reach the fifth and final spot in the rotation. Like I said above, I really think this will be Michael Pineda's job to lose. The Yankees were hoping that he would be the future ace of the staff, but injuries have kept him from throwing even one official pitch for them.

Luckily for the Yankees, giving up Jesus Montero hasn't worked out well for the Seattle Mariners, either, so at least they didn't lose much, technically.

Pineda was an all-star with the Mariners in 2011, and if he can come back to be at least half of that, you have to be very, very happy if you're the Yankees. A fifth starter should only be able to get you some quality starts here and there, and basically serves as an extra rest day for the top of the rotation starter, at least in my opinion. But if the Yanks can get something good out of him, the rotation will be extremely dangerous.

Even after saying all of this, I still think that the Yankees will have quite the competition in competing with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East next season.

The Red Sox just won the World Series, and even though they didn't get a lot better -- I mean, how much better can a World Series champ get? -- but they didn't really get worse, either. And the Rays are the Rays.

They're going to put a decent team on the field, and Joe Madden is going to make every player much better than they actually are, just like he always does. And let's not forget to mention that Tampa will always be attacking you with their very talented young pitcher staff, led by David Price and Alex Cobb.

No matter how much offense you bring to the table, you need a solid pitching staff in order to win a championship. With the signing of one player, yes, just one player, the Yankees suddenly have that solid pitching in their rotation, and they're ready to be a playoff team once again.

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1 comment:

  1. This is the year we actually lean on our pitching and you know what I hear John Sterling say all the time? "Good pitching stops good hitting." While we may not have a true "Ace of the Staff" anymore, I think overall our pitching staff is more balanced with talent than most other teams.

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