After a spectacular start to his MLB career Masahiro Tanaka has looked somewhat human of late, allowing nine runs and a .333 opponents’ batting average in his last two starts. And now we may know why: According to George King the New York Post the Yankees right-hander is headed back to New York to undergo an MRI exam on his right arm.
No further details yet, but Tanaka has allowed a career-high number of runs in back-to-back starts, including five runs on 10 hits against the Indians last night. He tossed at least 100 pitches in 14 of his first 16 starts–including 116 on June 28–but has totaled just 85 and 99 pitches in his recent poor outings.
Tanaka is in line to potentially start the All-Star game for the AL with a league-leading 12 wins and a 2.52 ERA that ranks second to Felix Hernandez of the Mariners. He also leads the league with three complete games and has thrown 129 innings with a 135/19 K/BB ratio.
And now Yankees fans hold their collective breath waiting to hear news on the team’s $155 million ace.
UPDATE: For now the Yankees have placed Tanaka on the disabled list with what is being called elbow inflammation.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.