Tanaka is making us believers
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The date was Aug. 19, 2012 - the last time New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka lost a regular season baseball game.

That was 21 months ago.

"I remember that I got pounded pretty badly in that game," Tanaka told David Waldstein of the New York Times through his interpreter.

We're surprised he can still remember that far back in history.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was hovering at 13,275.20. Gasoline averaged $3.68 and bacon was $4.01 per pound (I just spent $9.49 for a package of thick cut yesterday).

Since then, Tanaka has won 34 consecutive regular season games.

The first 28 wins of the streak, however, were while he was pitching for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. So major league baseball fans and fantasy owners still had doubts as to just how good he could be when he came to the American League.

He had signed a monster-sized deal to pitch in New York (seven years, $155 million) so the Yankees were obviously convinced, but fantasy owners are a stubborn lot and didn't jump on the Tanaka bandwagon right away.

Tanaka's preseason Yahoo ranking was 117, making him the 39th pitcher off the board. He was sandwiched between Atlanta's Mike Minor (ADP 112) and Tampa Bay's Matt Moore (119).

The 25-year-old right-hander has been almost perfect in 2014 with the Bronx Bombers.

OK, he gave up a home run to the first batter he faced in his April 3 debut (to Melky Cabrera), but after eight starts, he's a stunning 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA, league-leading 0.914 WHIP and 66 strikeouts to just seven walks.

He's the No. 2 pitcher in Yahoo rankings behind Cincinnati right-hander Johnny Cueto.

The Sports Network's starting pitcher evaluator tool (SSRD360 which measures a starter's performance based on four factors: wins, ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts) has him on top of the charts with a 2.449 rating, ahead of Chris Sale (2.483), Clayton Kershaw (2.518), Max Scherzer (2.522) and Cueto (2.621).

On Wednesday night, Tanaka threw his first major league complete-game shutout, blanking the New York Mets, 4-0. He yielded just four hits, struck out eight and didn't walk anyone.

Even more exciting is that he's still not satisfied with his performances.

"As far as my pitching goes, I was missing some spots, I wasn't at my best, but I'll work on it and make some adjustments in my next outing," he said recently.

You have to love it when a star wants to keep working at his craft.

I hope the bandwagon slows when it gets to my cubicle because I'm ready to jump on.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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