Who Should Start the Wild Card Game for the Yankees?
The Major League Baseball season is winding down. As the playoff picture becomes clearer after each passing day, it begs the question; Who should start the American League Wild Card game for the Yankees?
Could it be last year’s wildcard game starter Luis Severino? Based on Severino’s stellar first half stats, one would think it would be a no-brainer. Before the All-Star game Sevy touted a 14-2 record and pitched too a 2.31 earned run average.
Severino’s stats have taken quite the hit since the All-Star break. Since the midsummer classic, he is 3-6 with a 6.35 ERA. In fact, Sevy’s stats have gone from CY Young potential to quite pedestrian.
Could it be newly aquired starter J.A. Happ? Happ has done everything the bombers could have asked for since the trade deadline. Happ is 6-0 in pinstripes after the Yankees struck a deal with division foe Tronton Blue Jays to bring him to the Bronx.
In his latest start, Happ helped the Yanks defeat the divison leading Red Sox. He threw six solid innings, giving up one unearned run, striking out six Boston hitters.
C.C. Sabathia is also in the running to be named the Wild Card starter. Since remaking himself into more of a finesse pitcher, one who relies heavily on hitting his spots, Sabathia has thrived. Sabathia is 7-7, pitching to a 3.80 ERA.
The wily veteran could certainly pose as a potential threat to the Bombers wildcard opponent. However, he has struggled as of late. In the last month, Sabathia is 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in 22 innings of work.
Masahiro Tanaka is currently making the strongest case to be the Yankees Wild Card starter. Tanaka’s performance in the first half would have proved otherwise. However, it seems as if Tanaka is rounding into form at the perfect time. Tanaka has completely flipped his season around since the All-Star break.
Tanaka is pitching to a 2.30 ERA in the second half of the season, two less runs per game compared to his first half ERA of 4.54. Tanaka is also giving up almost 2 homerun’s per game less compared to his first half numbers.
Tanaka typically has better numbers in the second half of the season, evident from his last five years in pinstripes. Tanaka sports a 3.77 ERA in the first half of the season since 2014. In the second half he pitches to a 3.23 ERA.
Since the start of the second half this season, Tanaka has done a good job finishing batters off in two strike counts. He has limited his walks, and severly dropped the amount of homeruns he gives up. Tanaka’s fly ball rate in the first half was 38.1 percent. In the second half he has cut into that number only giving up about 27 percent of fly balls. Fewer fly balls means fewer homeruns.
Yankee fans are quick to forget that Tanaka became the Bombers most reliable postseason starter last year. Tanaka was 2-1 sporting a .90 ERA in 2o innings. If it was not for the lights out and dominating pitching perfromances from Astro’s ace Justin Verlander, Tanaka would have been the best statiscal post season pitcher last October.
The Yankees have many formidable options to start the Wild Card game. As of right now, Tanaka is the best option. Factor in his upside, his second half hot streak, and his post-season experience, Tanaka is a sure fire bet for the Yanks. When Tanaka is going right, there are not many pitchers in the league who can outduel him.
Tanaka has the ability to grind out games. He proved last post-season he does not give in moments of high pressure. A lot can happen between now and the last game of the regular season on September 30th. But as of right now, Masahiro Tanaka should be on the bump for the bombers come October third.
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