It may be time to shut Masahiro Tanaka down, and give Chance Adams a chance


The Yankees have had a pleasantly surprising start to the season, finding themselves in first place in the AL East with one of the best lineups in baseball and a stellar bullpen. Being in first place is impressive in itself for this team considering all the injuries they have dealt with early in the season, missing key players such as Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Didi Gregorius, not to mention Aroldis Chapman who remains on the disabled list for the foreseeable future. However, the one area that has Yankee fans worried early on is the starting rotation.
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It is almost shocking at this point of the season that the best and most consistent pitcher for the Yanks has been Michael Pineda, who is 5-2 with a 3.35 ERA, and has had a quality start in six of his nine outings this year, including having a perfect game into the seventh inning on the first Yankee home game of the year. In the back end of the rotation, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, and Jordan Montgomery have all struggled at times, but have overall been tolerable and have done a serviceable job.

Yet, Masahiro Tanaka, who is supposed to be the ace of this staff, has been atrocious this season, and that may be putting it kindly. Tanaka currently has the fifth worst ERA amongst qualified pitchers in baseball, and has given up 13 home runs and 62 hits in just 48 innings pitched. His performance on Derek Jeter night was unacceptable, and followed that up with another dreadful performance against Tampa, giving up a home run to the first batter of the game in both starts. The amount of off-speed pitches he has left up in the zone has been detrimental, and so has the lack of zip and command in his fastball, and both problems do not seem to be lessening any time soon.

Tanaka struggles leave the Yankees front office in a tough spot, especially due to the fact that Tanaka has an opt-out clause after this year, and will likely opt back in if he continues his putrid performance. It also does not help that the market for quality starting pitching for the upcoming offseason is slim. The Yankees could execute a trade to acquire a starter such as Gerrit Cole, but that would require giving up a number of key prospects. So where do the Yankees look for a competent starter to plug in the rotation this year?
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The first, and maybe only, place to look would be AAA, and the young pitcher who just got called up to AAA not too long ago: Chance Adams. He may only be 22-years-old, but was phenomenal for Trenton last season, posting a 1.72 ERA, and has looked great in the two starts he has made since being promoted to AAA.  Despite his age and odds that he may not be ready for the majors, it is fair to ask if there is any possible way he would be worse than Tanaka has been this season.

It is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with Tanaka. He has been pitching with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL - Tommy John Ligament) in his right elbow since 2014, but that did not seem to bother him last year when he finished seventh in Cy Young voting last season. The problem with Tanaka at this point may be more mental than physical, which is why I think the Yankees should consider putting him on the DL shutting him down for a significant amount of, or at least be taken out of the rotation for the time being. The Yankees have found success over the last year with plugging younger players into key roles, and that may need to happen with Chance Adams and Masahiro Tanaka.

Article by: Matt Luzzi

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