Podcast: Buster Olney on 104.5 The Team

Have we ever seen a Major League Baseball starting pitcher make such a large transition as quickly and as smoothly as Masahiro Tanaka?

"No, not right out and to be that important to a team," said Buster Olney, last Thursday with Armen and Levack on 104.5 The Team.

"Let’s face it, right now he’s propping up the Yankees season. If they don’t have him, they’re probably not close to this pack of teams that are trying to define themselves in the American League East. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball and the Yankees need him to be."

With six wins and at least 60 strikeouts, Tanaka is the first to have those kind of numbers in his first eight starts in over 113 years. Still, the former Japanese League stud thinks that he can be better.

"I think he’s not happy with his fastball command so far," said Olney. "That’s probably the one part of things that he’s not thrilled with. He might not be giving himself enough credit for what he’s doing well, and that is absolutely locking down."

Tanaka has the best rookie start for the Yankees since Whitey Ford in 1950. So what has enabled him to be so good, so early?

"Brian McCann has talked about how [Tanaka] knows when to max out. He knows when to go to the splitter. His velocity readings with runners on base this year, he typically throws about 91 mph. With runners in scoring position, his velocity on his fastball jumps up by two miles an hour. It really says a lot about his ability to compete."

Tanaka (6-0, 2.17 ERA) faces Chicago Cubs RHP Jason Hammel (4-2, 3.06 ERA) tonight at Wrigley Field with an 8:05pm first pitch.