Updated 06:27 AM EST, Sun, Feb 28, 2021

New York Yankees Season in Masahiro Tanaka's Hands

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The New York Yankees didn't have the biggest offseason ever, but they may have made the single biggest offseason addition in the majors by adding pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

On Jan. 22, 2014, the Yankees and Tanaka agreed to a seven-year contract worth up to $155 million. With that enormous contract comes an extremely big responsibility, and thus far Tanaka has silenced the doubters. With Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano no longer hitting home runs for the pinstripes, and Derek Jeter turning 40 years old in his final season, Tanaka will have to play the best baseball of his career.

Last season, the Yankees ranked No. 14 out of 15 American League teams in home runs hit and No. 14 in slugging percentage. Clearly, the power numbers aren't what they used to be in the Bronx, and Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio won't be reurning any time soon. Yankee history has always been built on hitting as opposed to pitching, but now, for the first time ever, the Yankees must lean on their pitcher to guide them to the playoffs.

Luckily for Yankees fans, so far, Tanaka has been up to the task. In his first three games, Tanaka has been fantastic, exceeding expectations.

Collectively through his first three starts, Tanaka is 2-0 with a 2.05 earned runs against average. His second start yielded a "no decision" against the Baltimore Orioles. Tanaka's latest gem came against the Chicago Cubs with a 10 strikeout performance and zero runs allowed. What is so impressive about Tanaka so far is that he has shown longevity and he doesn't walk batters. In all three of his games pitched, Tanaka has reached at least the seventh inning. In his 22 innings pitched thus far, Tanaka has 28 strikeouts to an incredible two walks.

Of course, it's only been three games, so we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves just yet. Tanaka will continue to face tough competition and he will have his ups and downs. Despite a high strikeout rate, low walk rate, and only two home runs allowed, he does allow quite a bit of hits to opposing batters. But who can complain when the batter never reaches home and is stranded on base anyway? Tanaka has done a great job not allowing runners to score and that's what is most important—runs allowed.

Tanaka is only 25 years old and is clearly the face of the Yankees franchise going forward. With the Derek Jeter era coming to an end, the Yankees rotation not hitting like it used to, and C.C. Sabathia showing signs of old age, Tanaka is more valuable than ever.

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