The New York Yankees received very bad news Thursday. According to Brendan Kuty, Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka has a small tear in his UCL and will miss six weeks… but that’s not it.
— Brendan Kuty (@BrendanKutyNJ) July 11,
If Tanaka’s injury does require Tommy John surgery, then how big of an impact will this make on the New York Yankees and the entire AL East division? Let’s put it this way: The Yankees are four games out of first place and the only reason that they are that close is because of Tanaka. The Japanese pitcher has maintained a 2.51 ERA this season with a record of 12-4. He started off the season 11-1 and was pretty close to un-hitable.
If Tanaka misses the rest of the year or even six weeks, the Yankees probably won’t have a shot at the division. His WAR (wins against replacement) is 4.2, which means that if he weren’t on the Yankees this year they would be eight games back. They need him to be a contender, that’s the bottom line.
This of course opens things up for the likes of the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays. The Orioles already have a three-game lead in the division and this just elevates their chances that much more. With all their key players getting hot right before the All-Star break and not having to worry about Masahiro Tanaka, you have to like their chances.
The Toronto Blue Jays were also thrilled to hear this news on Thursday (I mean not because a man got hurt, but because the Yankees may be out of contention). They went on a hot streak about 40 games into the season when they won 23 out of 26 games. They had as much as a 5.5 game lead on the second-place team, but they have now lost the lead and have fallen to three games behind first place.
This news will be music to their ears as they are trying to make a push at the AL East crown. However, they too have a very impactful injury. Earlier this week, home run leader Edwin Encarnacion suffered an undisclosed injury. This could have been disastrous for Toronto as Encarnacian has had just as big of an effect on their team as Tanaka has on the Yankees. However, it was determined that he suffered just a strained groin and is only expected to miss 2-4 weeks of action.
With the Yankees in third place, this may dramatically drop the competition in the AL East. In fact, it might just be a two-way race between Toronto and the O’s. The Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays are both 9.5 games back and ten games under .500. Though not impossible, it is a hole from which they are unlikely to extricate themselves.
With that being said, you should still never count the Yankees out. Remember last year? They used players in their upper 30s-to-40s that were at the tail end of their careers, and still won 85 games. That was the same amount of wins that the had Orioles last year, who had two players on the team with breakout seasons (Chris Davis and Manny Macahdo).
However, I’m just not sure if the Yankees can overcome this blow, especially because they have relied so heavily on Tanaka so far this season.
So what do you say Orioles and Blue Jays fans, are you ready?