Tanaka’s ERA (4.74) and WHIP (1.24) left a lot to be desired, and then there was that silly narrative about being a night-game pitcher, as he had a 6.99 ERA in his 10 starts in day games. That was flat-out hogwash, as he had a 3.02 career ERA during the day entering 2017, and a closer look at his numbers instead suggested he merely struggled with the command of his splitter for a period of time in the season’s early-to-middle stages. Tanaka also set career highs with a 15.9 percent swinging-strike rate and 64.5 percent first-pitch strike rate, and keep in mind that he had a 3.18 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 28.7 percent strikeout rate and .125 well-hit average allowed in 15 second-half starts (playoffs included).
Since Tanaka appeared to recapture the feel for his go-to out pitch, the splitter, late last season, better luck alone would do the trick. His .307 BABIP, 71.5 left-on-base percentage and 14.2 percent home run/fly ball rate were all career worsts.
This is perhaps best evidenced by his being one of only 23 pitchers to have managed a sub-4.00 FIP while pitching at least 100 innings in each of the past four seasons. But from that group, only he and Bartolo Colon have never finished among the top 20 starting pitchers on the Player Rater.
An improved pitch to use against right-handed hitters, who have .283/.333/.477 career slash rates against him, would help him even more than better luck in the health department. Anderson’s changeup has been a work in progress and might be the key to his taking another step forward.
Here’s a list of players to appear on the Blackhawks’ defense this season: Jan Rutta, Erik Gustafsson, Gustav Forsling, Jordan Oesterle, Cody Franson, Carl Dahlstrom, and Michal Kempny. If the point of sorting through all of those places was to try to find a stable, functional defense, then Joel Quenneville remains on the search.
With the decline of Keith and Seabrook on the back end, Chicago needed some of these players to step up. They’ve tried, too, whether it’s Oesterle’s extended foray on the top line or the month where Forsling-Rutta was aggressively used as a shutdown pairing. But each lineup play has come with problems, and now it’s too late in the season to feel like this will get solved.