Masahiro Tanaka’s first 11 starts have been about as good as you could’ve hoped when you drafted him around the 30th-40th SP off the board. It felt like he was being ignored in some leagues and came at quite the value. He’s a no doubt starter this week with the way he’s been performing, but it may be a good opportunity to sell high on the veteran pitcher.
Most of the numbers are in line with his career (GB rate, LD rate, K rate, BB rate, 1st strike rate). However, there are a few indicators that he’s been a little lucky and his stuff may not be quite what it has been in previous seasons, specifically his moneymaker, the splitter.
His swinging strike rate is down to 11.1% from 14.1% in 2017 and 15.1% in 2016. His 77% contact rate is the 2nd worst of his career along with career worsts in hard hit rate, launch angle, and average exit velocity allowed. 80.6% left on base rate isn’t completely unsustainable, but it would be the highest of his career.
It’s my belief, and the numbers back me up, that the splitter is not the pitch we’ve seen in previous seasons (below), which is leading to less swing and miss, and harder contact. The vertical movement on the pitch is the worst we’ve ever seen from Tanaka. His swinging strike and K rates are down, and of his 3 primary pitches (FB, Slider, Splitter), the splitter is the only one that has a worse whiff rate at 11.69 down from 22.99 the previous season and easily the worst of his career. The batting average against the split finger is .333 this season compared to .220 and .191 in the previous 2 seasons. Similarly, the slugging percentage is up to .560 this season vs .344 in 2017.
I don’t believe that Tanaka is just going to fall apart and if you need a steady arm to balance your roster, I think he’s fine, but with his current numbers I believe you may be able to sell him high compared to what he provides the rest of the season.Please, blog, may I have some more?