As we count down to Opening Day, Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand will answer 14 for '14 -- the top 14 questions facing the 2014 New York Yankees. The series will run until the eve of the first pitch between the Yankees and Astros on Tuesday, April 1, and will end with both Matthews and Marchand making their predictions for the season.
Question: How many games will Masahiro Tanaka win, and what will his ERA be?
Andrew Marchand: "As advertised" is the best way to describe Tanaka's spring. He showed the ability to throw all his pitches, including his devastating splitter. While his stuff is not overwhelming, it is strong enough, and he has mastered it to a point that he probably could be a No. 2-type starter as soon as this year. He has handled all the attention with ease, basically erasing that as a mitigating factor.
I believe Tanaka will go 16-7 with a 3.42 ERA -- which, when you talk about the Yankees' expectations for 2014, might be even better than advertised.
Wallace Matthews: I have been very impressed with Tanaka's poise and adaptability in assimilating so quickly into the very different world of Major League Baseball. But aside from his splitter, which is a superior pitch, I have been less impressed with his repertoire.
Tanaka's fastball is average to slightly above average, and his two-seamer has shown a tendency to stay up in the zone, which can be dangerous, especially in the AL East. Also, the Twins showed in his last start that if you can lay off his stuff, many of his pitches will end up out of the strike zone, forcing him to come in with the fastball. It's not that his secondary pitches -- I consider the splitter his primary weapon -- are subpar, but they aren't anything that major league hitters are going to fear.
I'm reasonably sure Tanaka can make the necessary adjustments to be successful in the big leagues. But for his first year, I'm tempering expectations. Let's say 14-11 with a 3.50 ERA.