13 Sep 2015
There has been a lot of debate recently over who the Yankees should start in a potential wild card game. Before Eovaldi got hurt, there was the idea that he might be the choice. Pineda and Severino have their supporters, but to me the answer is, and has always been, Tanaka.
Here’s my reasoning, Tanaka may not be the truly dominant pitcher the Yankees thought they were getting, but he is a very good pitcher and a very smart pitcher. He understands how to minimize the damage, even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. None of the other Yankee pitchers have figured that out, so Tanaka is the guy who gets the ball.
I mention this because the Yankees have a decision to make with Tanaka in terms of his usage the rest of the season. If he stays on schedule, he would pitch Friday against the Mets, Wednesday against the Jays, Monday against Boston, and then Saturday against the Orioles. He would then not be able to pitch again until October 8th, the first game of the ALDS.
That’s fine if you think the Yankees have a chance to win the AL East. The problem is that they probably don’t. As of this morning, Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds gave the Yankees a 5% chance of winning the AL East. It will go up after today’s win, but clearly the Yankees have a very small chance of doing it.
So what should they do with Tanaka? My suggestion would be to use Tanaka on normal rest right for the next rotation turn. You need to pitch him Friday in order to have the chance for him to pitch against Toronto next week. The Yankees can make the decision if they really want to do that as things progress. If they are close to Toronto in the standings they could start Tanaka in the last game of the series as long as he pitched on Friday. If you give him more rest this week, that chance goes away. And if they decide the AL East is unattainable, they can configure Tanaka’s starts to put him in line to pitch a wild card game very easily after he pitches Friday.
It all starts with Friday, so let’s see what they do.