Masahiro Tanaka was expected to anchor the Yankees' rotation last season in advance of a big payday in free agency, but he instead opted into his contract with the team for 2018 after the bottom completely fell out in the first half. The 29-year-old's season-long numbers never completely recovered from an especially wretched May, saddling Tanaka with his worst ERA in four MLB seasons. A lack of command was the main issue, as Tanaka served up 35 homers and was frequently hit hard when he did keep the ball in the yard. Fortunately, Tanaka regained velocity and unlocked the swing-and-miss stuff he lost while pitching through elbow injuries the last two seasons, generating a 15.1-percent swinging-strike rate that ranked third among qualified starters. That bodes well for Tanaka's chances of returning to peak form for the balance of 2018, especially since he seemed to turn a corner in the second half of last season. Following the All-Star break, Tanaka submitted a 3.77 ERA while holding hitters to a .229/.267/.405 line.
Tanaka will remain with the Yankees for the final three years of his contract. Tanaka had the opportunity to opt out this offseason, but will instead remain in New York, citing his desire to bring another World Series Championship back to the Yankees organization. The 2017 campaign was his fourth in New York and he finished with a record of 13-12 in 30 games, with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. Tanaka is owed $67 million over the final three years of his deal and will look to build off a strong postseason showing.
Tanaka will take the mound for Game 1 of the ALCS in Houston on Friday. Following his phenomenal start against the Indians in Game 2 of the ALDS, manager Joe Girardi will call upon Tanaka for the opening contest against Dallas Keuchel and the Astros. This likely sets up Tanaka for Game 5 on Wednesday, although he could potentially take the mound Tuesday for Game 4 if the Yankees' backs are up against the wall. With the way CC Sabathia is pitching, and with Luis Severino and Sonny Gray also in the rotation, it's unlikely that Girardi would throw him again before Wednesday's game, assuming that the series lasts longer than the minimum four games. It's worth noting that during Tanaka's lone start against Houston this season, he gave up eight earned runs off seven hits and a walk over 1.2 innings in mid-May.
Manager Joe Girardi said Tanaka will start Game 3 of the ALDS on Sunday against the Indians, Erik Boland of Newsday reports. Luis Severino failed to get out of the first inning during his first start of the postseason, so the Yankees will give him an extra day off before his next start, slotting Tanaka into the rotation ahead of him. Tanaka struggled to a 4.99 ERA through five September starts, though he did turn in a seven-inning shutout in his last start of the regular season, striking out 15 and allowing just three baserunners.
Tanaka (13-12) pitched seven scoreless innings with just three hits allowed and 15 strikeouts to earn the win over Toronto on Friday. After allowing eight runs through 5.2 frames to the Blue Jays in his previous start, Tanaka was in top form Friday. It was an important showing heading into the playoffs, and the 28-year-old righty will finish the regular season with a 4.74 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 9.8 K/9. Inconsistency has been a year-long struggle for Tanaka, but it's definitely worth noting that he's allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his past 10 outings.
Tanaka (12-12) allowed eight runs, seven of which were earned, on six hits and three walks while striking out six across 5.2 innings to take the loss Friday against the Blue Jays.he's returned Tanaka went into the sixth inning with a 4-1 deficit before giving up a grand slam to put the game out of reach, leading to his 12th defeat of the campaign. He's allowed seven earned runs in two of his last three starts, and although he has excellent upside, his recent downside presents significant risk to fantasy managers during the most important time of the season. He'll make his next start Thursday against the Rays.