Tag: Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka Injury: Updates on Yankees Star’s Forearm and Return

The New York Yankees have placed star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka on the 15-day disabled list with a forearm strain.

Continue for updates.

Tanaka Placed on DL

Tuesday, April 28

New York general manager Brian Cashman talked about Tanaka‘s injury, as reported by Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News:

Feinsand also had Joe Girardi’s thoughts on the injury, saying “He’s going to be out for a while. People will have to step up. We’ll deal with it.”

This injury showed no changes to the status of his ulnar collateral ligament, per Feinsand, a ligament that Tanaka tore midseason last year, which caused him to go on the 60-day DL. However, Cashman didn’t rule out Tommy John surgery, according to Peter Botte of the New York Daily News:

Tanaka talked about how he felt through an interpreter, per Botte and Bryan Hoch of MLB.com:

While it may not be known when exactly the injury occurred, Sweeny Murti of Sports Radio 66 WFAN did bring up an interesting point:

In four starts this season, Tanaka has gone 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. He last pitched April 23 against the Detroit Tigers, logging 6.1 innings and getting the no-decision.

He was scheduled to start Wednesday against Tampa Bay.

Tanaka looked strong in limited action during the 2015 season, which lifted any suspicionsat least for that period of timethat his right pitching arm wasn’t healthy.

It remains to be seen whether Tanaka hurt himself in this instance compensating for other areas of his body or if it was simply a fluky injury. In any event, New York needs Tanaka in its rotation after finishing 21st in MLB with 83 quality starts in 2014.

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Masahiro Tanaka’s Opening Day Flop Is Instant Reality Check for 2015 Yankees

If the New York Yankees want to return to the postseason in 2015, they’re going to need Masahiro Tanaka to be the ace he was in 2014. That’s pretty much non-negotiable.

Through one game, here’s how that’s going: not so good.

Tanaka drew the Yankees’ Opening Day assignment against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday afternoon at Yankee Stadium and looked very little like the guy who posted a 2.77 ERA and 6.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2014. In four innings, he allowed five runs (four earned) on two walks and five hits, one of which left the yard.

That got the Yankees off on the wrong foot in what went into the books as a 6-1 loss, and Katie Sharp of River Ave. Blues notes that it was the shortest Opening Day start by a Yankees hurler in 30 years:

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the 26-year-old Japan native’s right elbow didn’t self-destruct. After missing a good chunk of 2014 with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament that wasn’t repaired with Tommy John surgery, that was at least a secondary concern at the start of the day.

If there’s another silver lining, it’s that six of the 12 outs Tanaka got came via strikeout. As MLB GIFs can show, that had a lot to do with how his splitter and slider were generally in fine form:

But that’s where the silver linings end for the Yankees. Though Tanaka‘s 2015 debut wasn’t a total disaster, it’s definitely a performance that belongs in the file marked “DISCOURAGING.”

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: No, Tanaka‘s wasn’t good.

According to FanGraphsTanaka‘s average fastball in 2014 was 91.2 miles per hour, and it could get into the mid-90s when he needed it. It soon became clear on Monday that he wouldn’t be showing that kind of velocity against the Blue Jays. Instead, he sat in the 88-90-mph range.

Now, Tanaka did warn us this was coming. As reported by Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, he told reporters that it was “not the wisest” to anticipate good velocity from him in 2015.

“I think, yes, because of the fact I’m throwing more two-seamers, that could make the velocity go down a bit,” he explained. “As far as my pitching style and my mechanics, I’m trying to relax a little bit more when I’m throwing, so that might have to do with it a little bit.”

To this extent, it’s not surprising that Tanaka‘s velocity was down on Monday. Two-seamers do indeed move slower than four-seamers, and the PITCHf/x data at Brooks Baseball confirms that his two-seamer was his primary fastball.

But in this case, “primary fastball” really only works in a relative sense.

Of the 82 pitches Tanaka threw, shockingly only 26 were fastballs. That’s a fastball 31.7 percent of the time, which is quite a tumble from last year’s rate of 40.6 percent.

In the long term, this makes it even harder to have faith in Tanaka‘s elbow holding up.

Splitters and sliders don’t have the best reputation when it comes to elbow preservation. If he continues to throw more of them, his elbow might go from being in danger to being altogether doomed.

But that’s not the only concern here. Tanaka has indicated that he doesn’t have confidence in his fastball without his usual velocity, and that led to an approach with a perilously small margin for error.

The fastballs Tanaka did throw Monday adhered closely to the borders of the strike zone, and his splitter and slider usage was focused on getting swings and misses outside of the zone. Through it all, he looked like he had no interest whatsoever in testing himself within the strike zone.

This worked fine when he was getting ahead of hitters in the first two innings, but not so much when he started working from behind in his third and fourth innings of work.

He effectively permitted Blue Jays hitters to spit on his secondaries and sit fastball, and that led to a series of comfortable-looking at-bats.

In times like those, a pitcher is eventually going to have to challenge hitters in the zone with his fastball. And as Edwin Encarnacion made clear, that’s where Tanaka‘s diminished velocity could really hurt him:

In all, here’s how Tanaka‘s debut can be summed up: After looking like a rare pitcher with both command and power stuff in 2014, he spent Monday looking more like a Daisuke Matsuzaka-esque nibbler.

That’s not a good transition, and Arizona Diamondbacks announcer Steve Berthiaume may speak for everyone in noting that it doesn’t bode well:

Of course, this is where we can acknowledge that it’s only Opening Day. The Yankees have 161 games still ahead of them. That’s a lot of time for Tanaka to get squared away, even if he never gets his old stuff back.

For an encouraging illustration, consider Pedro Martinez in 2002. At the time, he was coming off an injury-marred 2001 season, and it was clear as he was giving up eight runs in three innings on Opening Day that he didn’t have his usual array of power stuff. But though that remained the case for the rest of the year, Martinez still finished with a 1.97 ERA in his final 29 starts.

That’s proof that a power pitcher can learn to live without lesser stuff. Maybe Tanaka can too.

He’ll have to stay healthy, though, and his splitter- and slider-heavy approach may make that more difficult. Even if he does stay healthy, the nibbling approach he showed off against Toronto won’t get it done.

In the event that Tanaka can’t pull a Martinez—which wouldn’t be surprising, given that he’s not Pedro Martinez—the Yankees are going to be in trouble.

Regardless of whether you ask Baseball Prospectus or FanGraphs, the Yankees entered 2015 as a team projected to only finish around .500. And that was with a common assumption that Tanaka would once again be the team’s best pitcher.

Such projections aren’t exactly gospel, mind you. But in this case, they do reflect just how volatile the Yankees’ roster is and how much the team really needs Tanaka to live up to his ace billing this year.

Based on our first look, that could be difficult for him. And if it is, the Yankees will be in trouble.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Masahiro Tanaka Named Yankees’ Opening Day Starter: Latest Comments and Reaction

The New York Yankees announced Masahiro Tanaka will take the mound on Opening Day when they face off with the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on April 6.

They confirmed the choice on social media:

MLB showcased what Toronto hitters will be dealing with:

The announcement from manager Joe Girardi on Friday morning was hardly a surprise, since it was clear last season that Tanaka had assumed the role of ace from Sabathia, whose effectiveness has been compromised by elbow and knee injuries and a significant loss of fastball velocity over the past two seasons,” noted Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.

Tanaka was outstanding during his rookie campaign with the Yankees. He posted a 2.77 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 20 starts while striking out 141 batters in 136.1 innings. Some elbow issues caused him to miss time, but he’s healthy heading into the 2015 campaign.

On March 24, Tanaka stated he would be honored to start on Opening Day, as relayed by Matthews:

Absolutely it’ll be a great honor for me to pitch on Opening Day. I think that being able to pitch on that very first day of the season, I think it says a lot about what the organization is expecting out of a pitcher. So in that sense I believe it would probably mean a lot to a lot of starting pitchers that are starting on Opening Day.

His selection ends a six-year run for CC Sabathia receiving the ball on Opening Day for the storied organization. That leaves him one short of the franchise record shared by Whitey Ford, Mel Stottlemyre and Ron Guidry.

That said, Tanaka deserved the honor based on performance.


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Masahiro Tanaka vs. Braves: Spring Training Stats, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

New York Yankees star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka took the mound on Thursday for his debut spring training start against the Atlanta Braves and was quite effective in limited action.

Tanaka retired the side in two perfect innings, striking out two batters and flashing dominant form in an encouraging outing at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports 1 noticed that Tanaka was generating exceptional velocity on his fastball in the early going:

The split-finger pitch that has garnered considerable hype helped Tanaka record one of his punchouts, which Morosi also made note of:

Bleacher Report MLB Lead Writer Zachary D. Rymer observed how Tanaka seldom missed a pitch during his two frames on the bump:

Yankees manager Joe Girardi weighed in after Tanaka’s evening was finished, via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

I’ve seen him throw his sides, I haven’t seen him protect anything. I saw him throw last year and didn’t really think that he protected anything. My antenna is up every time a pitcher goes out there; you’re paying close attention to make sure you don’t see something they do different. There’s a lot of times that I’ll see someone say, “Uh-oh.” But I have a good feeling about it.

Girardi has reason to feel good based on the stuff Tanaka strutted, not least of which was this highlight from the Yankees’ official Twitter account:

A lingering talking point is Tanaka’s health, because the 26-year-old suffered a partially torn right UCL in July 2014. It’s an injury that can lead to Tommy John surgery, a procedure that would keep Tanaka off the field for at least a year if not more.

The following update from ESPN’s Stephania Bell paints an even better picture of where Tanaka is:

Thursday’s appearance revealed Tanaka not holding anything back—and assessment Girardi corroborated—and showing off the ability that helped him to a stellar 13-5 record with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts last year.

The Japanese sensation recorded a 3.3 WAR in his first taste of Major League Baseball, per Baseball-Reference.com. New York will need that type of performance from Tanaka in 2015 if it means to reverse the trend of missing the playoffs, as has been the case the past two seasons.

If CC Sabathia can return to form and Tanaka remains healthy, the two could form quite a tandem to spark a Yankees rotation that ranked 21st in quality starts in 2014.

Tanaka has the tools to shine in his second season in the pinstripes, so Bronx Bomber fans have to be pleased with how his first spring training game unfolded and how it pertains to the future.

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Scott Miller’s Starting 9: Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka Plays the Tommy John Odds

1. Masahiro Tanaka: Do We Really Know the Percentages?

TAMPA, Fla. — Every single Masahiro Tanaka pitch is being watched closely this spring, and surely the bad news involving Yu Darvish out of Texas’ camp over the weekend didn’t make the Yankees feel any better about the whole situation.

Nevertheless, one of the biggest keys to the Yankees’ season forges ahead, and so far Tanaka has cleared every hurdle. He threw 29 pitches in a simulated game Saturday and is slotted to make his first Grapefruit League start Thursday against the Braves.

He looks good, feels good, and the Yankees do not necessarily read as bad news that pitchers from Chad Billingsley to Dylan Bundy tried rehabbing a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament—just like Tanakaand wound up needing Tommy John ligament transfer surgery anyway.

“I don’t know if we know [percentages] because there probably are guys who are pitching with it and never have a problem,” Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild told Bleacher Report. “So I’m not so sure how much actual knowledge we have.

“You can draw conclusions.”

But the conclusion to be drawn from Billingsley is not necessarily the conclusion to be drawn from someone else.

Take Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who missed all of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Wainwright was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL his junior year of high school…and successfully rehabbed and then pitched, avoiding surgery.

Six years later, pitching in Triple-A for St. Louis, same thing, same result: rehab, no surgery, return to pitching.

“I tell people, ‘If you can avoid surgery, do it,'” Wainwright said during a conversation at the Cards’ camp in Jupiter, Fla. “You don’t want to have Tommy John surgery unless you have to.

“Some pitchers don’t come back from that.”

It is true that, today, the surgery has been “perfected” as much as a surgery can be perfected. But that doesn’t guarantee 100 percent success; just ask the Padres’ Cory Luebke, who hasn’t pitched since April 27, 2012, after needing a second Tommy John surgery when the first one didn’t take. Arizona’s Daniel Hudson suffered the same fate.

“I’ve heard that some high school parents want their kid to undergo Tommy John surgery so they can come back stronger, and that’s just not always the case,” Wainwright says. “So if you can rehab and avoid surgery, it’s worth a try.”

Billingsley, then pitching for the Dodgers, took that route after injuring his elbow in August, 2012. By the spring of 2013, Billingsley looked great and passed every spring training test.

“During the process, they tried everything to get me to fail,” said Billingsley, now working on completing his comeback with the Phillies, in Clearwater, Fla. “They were not babying me. I pitched a simulated game and hit 92 mph, then 94 and 95, and my elbow felt fine.”

Two starts into the season, he was done. His surgery was in April, 2013.

“When it started bugging me again, it almost felt like tendinitis,” Billingsley said. “It took a couple of innings to get loose in games. It was a gradual deterioration.”

Billingsley is just about back to full speed this spring: Doctors have told him he can let it rip, full-bore, “whenever I’m mentally ready to let it go.” Last week, Billingsley wasn’t quite to that point yet, but he was getting closer.

In Sarasota, Fla., Bundy, the Orioles’ No. 1 pick (fourth overall) in the 2011 draft, made his spring debut last week. Following his quick ascension to Baltimore in 2012 at the age of 19 (two games, 1.2 innings pitched), Bundy underwent Tommy John surgery in June, 2013 (and notably, his older brother Bobby, also a pitcher in the Orioles system, needed Tommy John surgery three months later).

From a distance, Bundy watches Tanaka and hopes for the best.

“It’s such a crucial ligament in your throwing motion,” Bundy said. “If you’re even a little nicked up, it’s going to hurt.”

So Tanaka, who signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees last winter, moves through his spring, full-speed ahead, with the Yankees on high alert. While in Texas, Darvish, who was shut down in early August last year and tried rehabbing, will be in New York for a second opinion Tuesday and is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Tanaka. “Hopefully he gets through the year healthy.”

On that, pretty much everybody can agree.

“I’m a fan of great pitching,” Wainwright said, and Tanaka’s wipeout splitter and slider last year qualified as great pitching. Stay tuned.


2. Is the NL West Soft or Just Unlucky?

Excuse the Rangers if it seems the injury to Darvish is simply an extension of their rash of injuries over the past few years. They led the majors in 2014 in disabled list days, and it wasn’t close. Check out the rest of the top five:

Rangers: 2,281 days.

Diamondbacks: 1,448 days.

Padres: 1,373 days.

Dodgers: 1,229 days.

Rockies: 1,110 days.

Source: Elias Sports Bureau.


3. Replacing Derek Jeter

Say this for the Alex Rodriguez Clown Show: In a twisted way, it’s not a bad thing for the Yankees, because the rest of them are pretty much preparing for 2015 in the shadows of the media spotlight.

Case in point: new shortstop Didi Gregorius.

You would think the man designated to replace Derek Jeter would be doing so under a high-powered microscope. Instead, while everyone sizes up A-Rod for another back-page moment, Gregorius told B/R the other day he’s been surprised at how few interviews he’s done.

Not a bad thing for the man from Curacao who traveled with the Diamondbacks for their season-opening series against the Dodgers in Australia last year but then was optioned to Triple-A Reno upon Arizona’s return.

“I didn’t go to Triple-A bitter,” Gregorius said. “I played even harder and got called back up after two months.”

It is this attitude that gives him a chance in New York. He’s bigger than you would think at 6’2″, 205 pounds, and his hands are fairly large. His defense is sensational; it’s his bat that needs to come around.

“I saw him a lot in Arizona when I was in San Diego and I always thought there’s a higher upside to his offense than he’s given credit for,” third baseman Chase Headley said. “I really liked his swing. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he carries himself well.”

Which also positions him to succeed.

“There’s not a lot of situations to slide into like the one he’s sliding into,” Headley said. “No matter what he does, it’s not going to be Derek. So just helping him if he’s down, if he’s scuffling like any other player, will be important.”


4. Jailbreak and Fastballs

One thing we know: That $210 million contract hasn’t caused Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer to lose his sense of humor.

When asked the other day how he’s fitting in with Washington, he immediately mentioned Jayson Werth and grinned.

“Make fun of Werthy going to jail, you fit right in,” Scherzer quipped to B/R. “That’s gold.”

Werth, of course, famously spent time in jail this winter on a reckless driving charge.


5. Cash and Credit in Tampa Bay

There seemed to be a last-man-out-turn-off-the-lights vibe in Tampa Bay over the winter after general manager Andrew Friedman left for the Los Angeles Dodgers and field manager Joe Maddon scooted to the Chicago Cubs. 

The aftermath? New Rays manager Kevin Cash is getting rave reviews in Port Charlotte for his communication skills, knowledge and reflexes.

A former catcher for the Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, Astros and Yankees, Cash, only 37, is viewed as a future managerial star by many. Given his years with the Red Sox (2007-08, 2010), it is not surprising he says Terry Francona and John Farrell (now Boston’s manager, then the pitching coach) are the two men who most influenced his managerial philosophy.

“I was lucky,” Cash said. “I played for some managers who were great communicators.

“So if I screw that part up, it’s on me.”


6. Minnesota’s Metric System

Between reuniting with old friends and mentoring the Twins’ many prospects (Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Aaron Hicks, etc.), Torii Hunter, 39, has been sidestepping sabermetric zingers about his deteriorating fielding skills.

According to Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average defensive metric, Hunter was a minus-10.8 in right field for Detroit in 2014, and a minus-13.0 in 2013. According to FanGraphs’ Ultimate Zone Ratings, Hunter checked in at minus-18.3. All of those numbers are exceptionally low.

Unfamiliar territory for a nine-time Gold Glove winner. Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who signed Hunter to a one-year, $10.5 million deal for reasons having to do with both Hunter’s continued ability to play and his mentoring abilities, will let it play out.

“I know all of the metric stuff about Torii,” Ryan said. “It is what it is. We’re going to watch.

“That defensive metric stuff is tough. Sometimes, it seems misleading. Sometimes, it seems legitimate.”


7. Hanley Ramirez: Hard Hat Area?

No, the Red Sox have not outfitted Hanley Ramirez with a batting helmet while he works in left field this spring.

Ramirez is fully on board, saying he hasn’t played shortstop yet this spring and doesn’t want to, adding, “I’m an outfielder now.”

“It’s all about winning,” Ramirez said. “I’m putting in a lot of work. They want me to be comfortable, so there’s a lot of early work.”

Said Red Sox manager John Farrell: “His work has been very consistent, and [that] has everything to do with Hanley’s attitude and work he’s doing with [Boston first-base coach and outfield instructor] Arnie Beyeler. He’s taking caroms and hops [off the Fort Myers-replica Green Monster wall].

“We feel strongly that by April 4 he’ll be adequate and will continue to improve.”

Good thing. Being that the Red Sox open the season at Philadelphia on April 6, that would put him ahead of schedule.


8. Trade Winds Stall in Clearwater

Yes, it’s a game of timing, and not just on the field. Often in the GM’s office, too.

Given that Cliff Lee’s elbow is sore again, Ruben Amaro Jr. very well might have blown his best chance to deal the one-time ace left-hander.

The soreness is in the same area of his elbow that caused the Phillies to shut him down last July 31.

“I just don’t have any idea where we’re going to go from there,” Amaro told reporters Sunday, in what could have doubled as the club’s overall trade philosophy, too.

The Phils’ spring started with a ludicrously uncomfortable press conference with Cole Hamels after Hamels was quoted in USA Today saying he wants to win and, essentially, endorsing a trade. When Hamels reported to camp shortly after that story, he met the media in a large room and was peppered with questions while Phillies club officials (including president David Montgomery) were in the back of the room.

The Phillies inexplicably stood pat at last summer’s July 31 trade deadline. Then they finally traded Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers over the winter, but Lee, Hamels and Ryan Howard remain in uniform while a much-needed overhaul is delayed.

Lee is a free agent after this season. If the elbow injury cuts too deeply into 2015, the Phillies will be unable to deal him by the July trade deadline, and the idea of acquiring prospects for him will be gone for good.


9. The Secret Life of Baseball Bees

You go, Ned Yost, sticking up for bees. Attaboy.

While the Angels and Royals waited Sunday for the pest control diablos to clear the swarm of bees at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Kansas City manager simmered. And good for him.

“I’ve seen it before, but I’ve never seen mass bee genocide like that, though,” Yost told reporters in Arizona. “All you have to do is get some smoke…

“Trust me, I’m from the country. I live in the country. You take some smoke out there because the queen is in there somewhere, and you get a Shop-Vac and suck ’em all in and take ’em out to the parking lot and let them go…

“They’re just honey bees, man. There’s a decline in honey bees. We need ’em. It was sad to see.”


9a. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyric of the Week

“Come on now, give me some sugar
“Give me some sugar, little honey bee
“Don’t be afraid, not gonna hurt you
“I wouldn’t hurt my little honey bee
“Don’t say a word, ’bout what we’re doin’
“Don’t say nothin’ little honey bee
“Don’t tell your momma, don’t tell your sister
“Don’t tell your boyfriend, little honey bee
“She like to call me king bee
“She like to buzz ’round my tree
“Oh call her honey bee”

—Tom Petty, “Honey Bee”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. 

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New York Yankees: A Healthy Tanaka Can Lead Yanks to Playoffs

The New York Yankees have a ton of question marks heading into spring training. It will be the first time in a long time without Derek Jeter at shortstop. Alex Rodriguez will likely lead the league in publicity, but he may or may not hit. And there is no clear-cut choice to start at second base.

But the biggest concern might be ace pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.  The Yankees signed the Japanese star to a seven-year, $155 million contract last January, and even though he pitched wonderfully in his first 20 starts of big league action, a huge scare jolted the organization when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow in July.

After throwing his first bullpen this spring, a 21-pitch session at the Yankees’ spring training facility in Tampa Bay, he said he feels better than ever.

“I actually feel a little bit better than last year,” he told ESPN.com. “My overall body and health is better.”

When healthy, Tanaka is an absolute beast. He is already one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, and he makes opposing pitchers very uncomfortable by repeating his delivery and mixing his pitches with tremendous efficiency.

Last year, he used his fastball, splitter, slider and curveball with impeccable variety.  But the thing that makes him to most effective is his ability to repeat his delivery.  He threw his fastball 40.6 percent of the time and his splitter 25 percent of the time, according to Fangraphs. Those two pitches have about a five mph difference, and when the batter cannot tell what pitch is coming until it is out of the pitcher’s hand, it is nearly impossible to hit.

But even if he comes back and pitches similarly to how he did last year, will the Yankees even be able to contend?

On the surface, it looks like 2015 will be a bleak year for the Bronx Bombers. In Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA rankings, the Yankees are projected to finish fourth in the American League East with a record of 80-82. But they do have some talent on the roster, and manager Joe Girardi has shown he is willing to be creative if it will help the team win.

There is a chance the Yankees start the season with a six-man starting rotation.  Pitching coach Larry Rothschild hinted at that possibility to reporters last Wednesday, per Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News.

While it is definitely unorthodox, teams generally use five starting pitchers, and it actually makes a lot of sense for the Yankees because the rotation has a history of injury.

Tanaka is coming off of surgery, CC Sabathia is coming off of knee surgery, and Michael Pineda spent time on the disabled list last year with a strained back muscle

The Yankees acquired Nathan Eovaldi in the offseason in exchange for Martin Prado, and the hard-throwing righty should be ready to contribute immediately in the upcoming season. Adam Warren and Chris Capuano are two quality arms that would likely thrive out of the bullpen, but if management decides to go with a six-man rotation, one of those two would be the sixth starter and the other would be the club’s main long reliever.

That rotation, although injury prone, has the potential to be among the league’s best. Tanaka is an ace, Sabathia used to be an ace, and Pineda still has his better days ahead of him.

Sabathia has been brutally ineffective in the past two seasons, but one scout is confident that he has what it takes to resurrect his career going into his age-34 season. The scout, quoted in an article written by Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com, feels Sabathia is smart enough to be successful even though he doesn’t have the dynamic arsenal he once did.

“When a guy gets into their 30s, they have to have a second career,” the scout said. “I always felt CC could do that because he really knows how to pitch.”

If Tanaka returns from injury fully healthy, Sabathia has a good season and Pineda builds on his excellent 2014 when he went 5-5 with a 1.89 ERA and a phenomenal 59-7 strikeout-to-walk rate, the Yankees will have one of the best starting rotations in the American League.

In the bullpen, things look bright as usual.  While former closer David Robertson opted to sign with the White Sox in the offseason, the Yankees were able to lure Andrew Miller to the Bronx.  Miller will pair with breakout star Dellin Betances to form one of the most formidable late-inning reliever duos in the MLB.

The offense, however, does not look nearly as promising as the pitching staff. 

The Yankees finished 13th out of 15 American League teams in runs scored last year, and the starting lineup is filled with players who are past their primes.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are both solid, speedy outfielders at the top of the order, but after that, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez, Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew are either unproven or over the hill.

It’s not entirely hopeless, though. 

Beltran is only one year removed from hitting .296 with 24 home runs in his age-35 season with the Cardinals. He is a good enough hitter to continue to produce even as he ages.

Teixeira struggled last year with a career-low .238 batting average on balls in play, according to Fangraphs. He was one of the best power hitters in the game as recently as 2012, and while he might never hit over .230 again in his career, he could easily hit 30 home runs in 2015.

Catcher Brian McCann faced big expectations when he signed with the Yankees last offseason. His powerful left-handed swing was supposed to result in huge home run totals in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, but he struggled mightily all season.  However, he told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that he expects to have a huge bounce back in his sophomore season wearing pinstripes.

Third baseman Chase Headley is a steady third baseman, great defensively and a solid hitter, but he is not the type of player who can anchor a lineup. He is a nice complementary piece, but if he is forced to be the go-to guy in the middle of the order, the Yankees are in trouble.

And then there’s Alex Rodriguez. He will undoubtedly command a huge crowd when he arrives at spring training, but if he can hit, nobody will care about his questionable past. Despite the fact that he has been arguably the most criticized player in sports for the past few years, he is still a gifted hitter. If he can get in a groove, he could have a decent season playing as the designated hitter.

Finally, Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew are good defenders but don’t provide much with the bat. Rob Refsnyder may have a future at second base, but it is unclear whether or not he will have an opportunity to crack the big league club in 2015.

All in all, the roster does not look intimidating. The Yankees have the potential to be a good pitching team and a decent hitting team, especially if Tanaka comes back strong from surgery. He is the key.

If Girardi can count on Tanaka every fifth (or sixth) day to flummox the opposition with his filthy fastball-splitter mix, the Yankees will be in a good position. But if Tanaka shows some of the ill effects of elbow surgery and the Yanks are forced to rely on Sabathia and Pineda, it could be a long year.

The Yankees likely won’t make the playoffs. They are just too old, and there are too many questions regarding the team.

But with the way the postseason now works, with two wild-card spots, anything can happen. Last year seemingly every team had a chance to make the playoffs until the final days of the regular season. The Yankees have a chance to be one of those teams, and a healthy Tanaka would drastically improve their chances.

And if the Yankees did find a way to qualify as a wild-card team, a healthy Tanaka would ideally pitch the one-game playoff in an attempt to take the team to the ALDS for the first time since 2012. 

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Jose Abreu’s Rookie of the Year Candidacy Should Not Spark Rules Debate

This country is an interesting piece of real estate, especially around this time of year, when elections are held and democracy plays out at its finest.

You get to hear all sorts of debate and argument. And if you listen closely enough, you can find politicians manhandling certain points of contention in ways that fit their argument on one day, and on another, twisting the same point to fit a different argument. 

The baseball world is no different. Some writers, analysts and people employed in Major League Baseball use the same sticking points to fit more than one argument, even when they directly conflict with each other. This is certainly the case when it comes to changing the rules for awarding each league’s Rookie of the Year Award.

The 2014 edition is set to be announced Monday, and the American League winner is an easy call. It will be Chicago White Sox outfielder Jose Abreu, who is 27 years old and played eight seasons in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s top league.

This again will spark debate about whether players like Abreu, those of advanced age and more experience than rookies coming from this country’s minor league system, should be taking home the hardware.

Unfortunately, a decent amount of fans, media members and people in the game feel the same way. What is also unfortunate is none of them have an idea how to tweak the current rules, which simply call a rookie exactly what he is: a player playing his first season in Major League Baseball, assuming he has not exceeded the innings pitched or at-bat rules during past call-ups.

The main argument against players like Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka, who would likely be a candidate this year had he not gotten injured, as well as Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki and Hideo Nomo before them, is that the players are either too old (Matsui was 29 when he finished second in the AL race in 2003) or have too much experience in professional leagues outside of the United States (Ichiro played nine seasons in Japan before winning the AL award and MVP in 2001).

Somehow, the critics say, this is clearly an unfair advantage.

They say the experience and age provides an uneven playing field. They say that those other leagues, particularly the top Japanese league, are so much better than Major League Baseball’s Pacific Coast League or International League, the Triple-A leagues in this country, that it would be insulting to equate them to our minor leagues.

Then again, those leagues are far too inferior to the majors to consider what a player might have accomplished overseas. After all, are we convinced that Matsui will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, or Hall-worthy at all?

His numbers, in Japan and the big leagues combined, make him an easy inductee. But he probably won’t be such a tomahawk dunk when he is eligible in 2017. The argument there: The Japanese numbers can’t hold nearly the same weight as anything he did in the major leagues because that league is nowhere near as good as Major League Baseball.

So there we are. A double standard. The league is either good enough, or it is not. You can’t play both sides depending on the argument.

“It’s unfair to our kid — or any kid in any organization who’s coming out of our minor-league system in this country,” then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark in 2003 when Matsui was up for the award. “When you talk about players like Ichiro and Matsui, you’re talking about guys who are much more farther along in their experience and development than our kids over here. It takes these kids three, four, five years to catch up with the guys from Japan, from a standpoint of experience and development.”

But few scouts believed they were seeing a star when evaluating Abreu, one of Cuba’s greatest hitters ever, before the White Sox signed him for six years and $68 million and led the AL in slugging percentage (.581) and OPS-plus (169) to go with 36 homers and 107 RBI.

“He’s turning 27 years old and has a career full of 85 to 87 mile an hour fastballs,” one international scout told Ben Badler of Baseball America. “He’s not an athlete and he doesn’t have bat speed. You’re asking a 27-year-old non-athlete to go to the big leagues and make an adjustment. Against 97 (mph), this guy has no chance. All of us who know him are all saying the same thing.”

Yet, there will be those who say Abreu should not be eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award because of his experience and/or competition level in relation to the minor leagues here. Nevermind the cultural and language barriers players like Abreu, Tanaka and others have faced, which can be far more difficult to navigate for some players than competing in the majors.

For reasons that make total sense, which is to say they are financial, major league teams do not scout players from Asian countries as teens unless one of them happens to come to America for a showcase or tournament. But no scout is flying halfway around the planet to look at an 18-year-old pitcher from Japan or Korea.

Instead, they leave the scouting and development up to the leagues in those countries. They use them as a farm system without ever having to pay for the player, unlike what teams do in the Dominican Republic, where baseball academies groom players before they’d be eligible to vote in this country. Then, if an Asian player shows enough potential to succeed at the highest levels of the sport, major league teams become interested.

Now, if teams truly thought those Asian leagues were that much better than the Pacific Coast League or International League, they’d be luring far more players to this side of the world at earlier ages. If those leagues were as good as some people want us to believe, people who want the Rookie of the Year rules altered, Japanese players would be as prevalent on major league rosters as Dominican players.

At age 20, Tanaka posted a 2.33 ERA in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. Do major league scouts truly believe he could have done something similar in the big leagues at that age? Probably not, and that is why they allowed Tanaka to pitch four more years in his home country before enticing his Japanese team to put him up for auction.

Also, if teams didn’t know of Tanaka before his World Baseball Classic experience, then it shows that MLB does not think enough of the Japanese league to scout it regularly.

If people care enough to change the rules, they should care enough to figure out how to make MLB’s minor league system better. Do teams really need three levels of A-ball and a short-season league? No, probably not, considering all the fringe players used to fill out rosters, guys with no chance of making it the higher levels.

For all the displeasure about the current rules for the award, which the Baseball Writers’ Association of America votes on, no one has come up with alternatives.

Do they want all international players excluded from consideration? That can’t happen because it takes away Canadian, Dominican, Mexican, Venezuelan and all other players not from the U.S. who might spend significant time in the minors.

Do they want to exclude players with professional experience in other countries? That doesn’t make sense since players who are in the minor leagues in America are professionals.

Do they want players who have played in certain leagues across the country excluded, or for a certain number of years? Again, nonsensical since no one thinks any other league can even sniff the talent in the majors, no matter how long a player competes in it. And that belief is accurate.

The first rule of griping about a perceived problem is having a logical solution. This argument has none.

Abreu is going to win this award, and he deserves it. And any other player who comes from any country or league that is not the majors should be eligible to win it, regardless of age or experience level.

By definition, they are rookies. They earn their numbers on the field, and they should be able to earn the accolades that come with them, now and in the indefinite future.


Anthony Witrado covers Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report. He spent the previous three seasons as the national baseball columnist at Sporting News, and four years before that as the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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Scott Miller’s Starting 9: Stretch Run Will Tell Tale of Yankees Present, Future

1. Yankees vs. Schedule-Makers

Not that the Yankees are holding open auditions these days, but 52 times this season, Joe Girardi has handed the ball to a rookie starter and steered him toward the mound.

No other team in the majors has started rookie hurlers as often this summer, and only three times since rookie rules were established in 1958 have the Yankees entrusted a larger number of their games to those classified as such: 1991 (54 times), 1986 (54) and 2007 (52).

Click Ahead to Other Topics

• Numbers not adding up for the Orioles
• Finally, the Dodgers find some late-inning magic
• Joey Bats shows his not-so-glamorous side
• The numbers crunch is growing in the Bronx
• Mariners make dizzying history in Boston
• Stephen Strasburg keeps the Nationals guessing
• Is Billy Butler’s glove key to Royals’ renaissance?
• It’s time to start planning for next year for a few teams

Yet each time this seeming pinstriped version of Christians-Lions threatens to become gory (especially with Masahiro Tanaka, who has started 18 times, out)…it doesn’t. The Yankees steal a few wins, the Orioles get swept by a bad Cubs team in Wrigley Field, and, presto, the Yankees’ pulse quickens.

That the Yankees started this week in second place in the AL East, only six games behind Baltimore, is either a testament to their steely resolve and fortitude, or an enormous indictment of the Blue Jays, Rays and Red Sox.

Debate that as you may (correct answer: A lot of both), but now comes the next round of heavy lifting for the Yankees: A key stretch of schedule in which 21 of their next 30 games, taking them through Sept. 25, is against clubs with winning records.

Starting Tuesday, nine of their next 12 are against winning clubs: the Royals, Tigers and Blue Jays. Throw in Tanaka‘s scheduled simulated game Thursday in Detroit, and this is the latest week that could make or break the 2014 Yankees.

What we’re watching is Girardi‘s best job of managing yet and a Yankees club that should leave even the most ardent optimists scratching the stadium giveaway caps sitting atop their heads.

A “future” with Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran really is more of a past. CC Sabathia did what he was supposed to, helping to bring another World Series title to the Bronx (2009), but he’s not going to be leading a staff in his twilight years. And just think, only six more months remain before Alex Rodriguez pops his head out in Tampa like Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania.

What general manager Brian Cashman has been unable to do in the years since the latest dynasty ended in 2000 is establish a pipeline of prospects that replenishes the major league club.

As Derek Jeter enters the final month of his career, the roaring question is: When will the next Jeter emerge from the Yankees’ system? That “Core Four”—Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera…all were drafted or signed and developed in the Yankees’ system.

As for the present, the Yankees have used a franchise-record 31 pitchers so far this season. Only the Texas Rangers (36), hit by a Noah’s Ark-sized flood of injuries, have employed more.

Still, including old warhorses Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano, Yankees starters were 6-4 with a 2.77 ERA over their past 18 games heading into Michael Pineda’s start in Kansas City on Monday.

That’s a far better reality for this group than the Yankees had any right to expect. Now strength of schedule comes into play with the force of a USC linebacker.

Of course, the Orioles have helped New York remain alive. No sooner had the Birds opened a commanding nine-game lead in the AL East before they ran smack into the Javier Baez Wrigley Field Wrecking Co.

The result was a 4-5 road trip. Chris Davis is now down to a .190 batting average, the lowest mark of any major leaguer with at least 400 at-bats. And Manny Machado is lost for the season to knee surgery.

So can the Yankees erase the rest of the Orioles’ lead? Or even wipe out a 2.5-game deficit in the wild-card standings, where they trail both the Seattle Mariners and Tigers (emphasizing the magnitude of this week’s series)?

A lot may hinge on the one game this week that doesn’t count, a simulated game scheduled for Thursday that will see Tanaka test his injured elbow, which has had him on the DL since July.


2. The Orioles By the Numbers

Just when the Orioles appeared to be running away from the pack in the AL East, they were whacked by the Cubs and sideswiped by news that Manny Machado will be lost for the year due to surgery on his right knee. Last summer, his season ended early with the same procedure on his left knee.

It’s the end of a bizarre season for Machado, who lost it during a series against the A’s in June, was suspended and now says he has abnormal knees, which left them vulnerable to injuries. By having this surgery now, he says, he hopes his knee issues will become a thing of the past

You can’t help but wonder whether Machado’s knees now will compromise his future. He arrived in the majors as such a supreme talent at 19 in 2012. With him and catcher Matt Wieters both out for the season, the Orioles have taken a huge hit.

Meantime, Nelson Cruz leads the majors with 34 homers after Chris Davis’ 53 topped the majors last summer. If Cruz maintains his lead, the Orioles will become only the fourth team since 1920 to have two different players win homer titles in back-to-back seasons, according to STATS, LLC.

The others: The 1936-37 Yankees (Lou Gehrig 49, Joe DiMaggio 46), the 1987-88 Athletics (Mark McGwire 49, Jose Canseco 42) and the 1993-94 Giants (Barry Bonds 46, Matt Williams 43).


3. Dodging the Late-Inning Heroics

That the Dodgers beat the Padres 2-1 last Thursday in Dodger Stadium on its own wasn’t a big deal.

That they did it when Justin Turner bashed a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning? That made it kind of a big deal.

Until then, the Dodgers were 0-46 in games in which they trailed after seven innings this season. They were the only team in the majors without a victory in that situation.

Big deal? Well, to hear radio talkers in Los Angeles, it at times showed a lack of heart, courage, fortitude and guts.

The truth of the matter is the zero wins was the weird part. You’d think that the Dodgers would have snatched one or two by late August. But it’s not like successful clubs always thrive in those situations. The Nationals, leading the NL East, were 6-44 at the time when trailing after seven. The Brewers, leading the NL Central, were 5-41.

Closest to the Dodgers in the NL was the Cardinals, who were 1-43 in those situations (they’re 2-45 now).


4. This Week With the Blue Jays

Toronto was supposed to be contending for a playoff slot right about now. Instead, the Blue Jays this month have made spectacles of themselves.

They’re contesting a new logo introduced by the Creighton University Bluejays because, get this, it looks like a Blue Jay.

And as if losing nine of their past 12 isn’t enough to put a damper on any October hopes, Jose Bautista is showing the opposite of leadership skills. After Bautista was ejected by plate ump Bill Welke in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 2-1, 10-inning loss to Tampa Bay, manager John Gibbons let him have it.

“Bottom line is, we needed him in the game,” Gibbons told reporters. “Say your piece and get the hell out of there. We’re trying to get in the playoffs, we need you on the field. He’s a marked man in this game. Bill Welke? I thought he had a pretty good zone today. It was steady, he was calling strikes. He was looking to call strikes. But we need you in the game.”


5. The Yankees By the Numbers

It was nice to see the final residue of hard feelings between Joe Torre and the Yankees melt away Saturday as they retired his No. 6. His was the 18th number the Yankees have retired, and at this rate, maybe they could use a few bitter breakups with legends in the near future (like the way the Red Sox always seem to roll!).

They’re going to run out of numbers eventually, and assuming it is a slam dunk that Derek Jeter’s No. 2 eventually will be retired, they’re already out of single-digit numbers in the Bronx:

  1. Billy Martin
  2. Derek Jeter (will be retired eventually)
  3. Babe Ruth
  4. Lou Gehrig
  5. Joe DiMaggio
  6. Joe Torre
  7. Mickey Mantle
  8. Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey
  9. Roger Maris

By the way, for those who don’t know, way back when numbers were first placed onto uniforms, they signified the slot in the batting order that player occupied. Thus, Ruth wore No. 3 and Gehrig No. 4.


6. Dizzying Heights for Mariners

Not to make light of Robinson Cano leaving Sunday’s game in Boston because of dizziness—he later said he thought it might be a touch of the flu—but has anyone considered that Cano’s condition might have been results-induced?


7. Nationals Alert

Winners of 12 of 14 and hotter than anybody this side of the Kansas City Royals, the Nationals are playing well enough that manager Matt Williams probably is going to have the luxury of arranging his playoff rotation sooner rather than later.

And his Game 1 starter at this point has to be…Jordan Zimmermann? Doug Fister?

There was a time the quick answer would have been Stephen Strasburg. But Strasburg‘s mysterious inconsistency this summer peaked Sunday during the Nationals’ 14-6 laugher over the Giants.

The game became a laugher only after Washington was able to erase the 5-0 deficit Strasburg dug them in the first three innings. Strasburg, who has struggled with fastball location off and on all summer, inexplicably grooved pitches to Travis Ishikawa and Gregor Blanco, both of which turned into home runs.

Already this season, Strasburg has surrendered a career-high 21 homers, five more than he served up all of last year in only 7.2 fewer innings (175.1, as compared to 183 in 2013).

On the flip side, Strasburg leads the NL with 202 strikeouts.

He is an exceptionally hard worker. He cares. And the strikeouts tell you his stuff is still there.

Simply put, he is an ongoing example that this game is nearly impossible to tame, even by the uber-talented. Strasburg still has not lived up to the overwhelming hype that trumpeted his arrival back in 2010. But at 26, there is still time.

Heck, there’s still time for him to tune things up enough this year to start Game 1.


8. To DH or Not to DH?

We all know the glory days of the designated hitter—way back when thumpers like Don Baylor, Chili Davis, Edgar Martinez and Brian Downing roamed the earth—have long since passed.

But check out the profile of a guy this summer whom you would think would be the perfect DH, Billy Butler.

As pointed out by stats guru Bill Chuck, in 93 games as a DH this year, Butler is hitting .261/.310/.336 with three homers and 35 RBI.

In 29 games as a first baseman, Butler is at .308/.351/.523 with five homers and 16 RBI.

Oh, and most important: Before July 20, Butler essentially was a full-time DH. Since he’s moved to first base, the Royals had compiled baseball’s best record at 24-8.


9. Cool Standings? You Bet

With September drawing near, a check at what used to be coolstandings.com and now is on the FanGraphs.com website:

The current division leader with the greatest probability of winning its division is the Nationals (at 98.9 percent), followed by the Dodgers (92.5), Orioles (89.5), A’s (56.8) and Royals (46.5).

The NL Central? That’s the most fascinating division, according to the probabilities: The Brewers currently lead the Cardinals by 1.5 games…yet the Cardinals (48 percent) have a higher probability of winning the division than the Brewers (47.2).

According to FanGraphs‘ Cool Standings, nine teams can begin looking to next summer, with a zero percent chance at this year’s wild-card slots: The Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Astros, Rangers, Phillies, Cubs, Diamondbacks and Rockies.


9a. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyric of the Week

A prayer for Ferguson, Missouri, and for the greater good to be done throughout our land….

“Mother, mother

“There’s too many of you crying

“Brother, brother, brother

“There’s far too many of you dying

“You know we’ve got to find a way

“To bring some lovin‘ here today, ya

“Father, father

“We don’t need to escalate

“You see, war is not the answer

“For only love can conquer hate

“You know we’ve got to find a way

“To bring some lovin‘ here today”

— Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl.

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Yankees’ Tanaka and Betances 1st Rookie Pitcher Teammates Selected as All-Stars

The New York Yankees made a bit of history Sunday, becoming the first team in MLB history to have two rookie pitchers named to an All-Star team, per Elias Sports Bureau.

Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka is on the short list of candidates to start for the American League, while 26-year-old setup man Dellin Betances figures to pitch out of the bullpen. Both newcomers have quickly emerged as masters of their respective crafts, helping an otherwise shaky Yankees team stay right in the thick of the playoff chase.

The 25-year-old Tanaka leads the majors with 12 wins, a number that no other Yankee rookie has ever reached before the All-Star break, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

If not for the remarkable season Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is having, Tanaka would be a lock to start the All-Star Game. As is, Tanaka still has a chance to get the nod, with his 2.27 ERA only a bit behind Hernandez’s 2.12 mark, and his 130 strikeouts just 15 shy of King Felix’s 145.

Betances, who earned his first career save in Monday’s game against the Cleveland Indians, hasn’t received nearly the same amount of press as Tanaka, though his work out of the bullpen has been nothing short of remarkable. The New York City native ranks second among American League relievers with 52.1 innings pitched, while leading the majors in strikeouts (79) by a relief pitcher.

As if that weren’t enough, the young right-hander sports a pristine 1.55 ERA, eighth-best in the AL among relievers who have logged 20 or more innings.

Along with Tanaka, Betances is the first rookie pitcher the Yankees have had in the All-Star Game since 1947, when Spec Shea did the honors, per the team’s official Twitter account.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB All-Star Roster 2014: Breaking Down This Year’s Most Deserving Players

There are plenty of bubble players for the 2014 MLB All-Star rosters, but some have already locked up spots.

These players are not only guaranteed All-Stars, but they’re MVP and Cy Young candidates as well.


4. SS Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

Tulowitzki is on pace to finish with one of the highest batting averages since the turn of the century. He leads the majors with a .350 batting average. If he maintains it, he’ll finish with the highest average since John Hamilton hit .359 in 2010. 

While there are several contact hitters on Tulowitzki’s tail for the league lead in batting average, his power gives him a huge edge when it comes to who is most deserving of an All-Star roster spot. He also boasts 47 RBI and 18 home runs, which ties him for the ninth highest total in the league.


3. RHP Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees

Tanaka wasted no time not only becoming the Yankees’ best pitcher but one of the best pitchers in baseball. He leads the majors with 12 wins in 17 starts this season. And in those 12 starts, he’s established quite the stat line.

He has struck out 130 batters, tying him for fifth most in the league, and recorded a 2.27 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, ranking him fourth and fifth, respectively. He’s also walked fewer batters than any pitcher with double-digit wins. The 25-year-old will be on this list for years to come.


2. 1B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

No one has created more runs for his team than Encarnacion this season. Entering Friday night’s action, he’s racked up a league-leading 69 RBI, many of which have come off his league-leading 26 home runs. While Nelson Cruz and Jose Abreu have produced comparable numbers in the race to be baseball’s best power hitter, Encarnacion earns the edge with contact.

He has a higher batting average than both Cruz and Abreu. He also has a higher on-base percentage, having drawn 43 walks. He’s the greatest reason why the Blue Jays are the fourth highest-scoring team in the league this year.


1. RHP Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

Hernandez doesn’t have as many wins as Tanaka (10), but that’s about the only number of Hernandez’s that isn’t better. He’s third in the majors with a 2.10 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 137 strikeouts. While he doesn’t lead the league in those categories, no other pitcher is consistently rated as high across the board.

King Felix has also allowed just four home runs in 18 starts and 96 hits in 128.1 innings pitched. No pitcher with more than 100 innings has allowed fewer homers. Out of all the elite pitchers this season, no one has been better than Hernandez.


David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.

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