Ron Guidry was the last Yankees pitcher to win 25 games, going 25-3 in 1978. He sees no reason why Masahiro Tanaka cannot be the next.
"He's got a good opportunity,'' Guidry said Sunday at Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium. "As long as he stays away from injuries, he has a real good shot.''
Latest Yankees stories
Tanaka (11-2), who faces the Red Sox Saturday night, can finish this month one victory short of Bob Welch's 13-2 start with the A's in 1990. Welch (27-6) is the last pitcher to win at least 25 games.
Denny McLain, who went 31-6 in 1968, was 14-2 at the end of June. "I had 28 complete games,'' he said. "I think that kind of defines winning 30 ballgames. Guy wins the Cy Young Award today has two complete games.''
Tanaka, who was 24-0 in Japan last season, certainly could become the first rookie to win 20 since Tom Browning went 20-9 for the Reds in 1985. The modern record is 26, set by Russ Ford for the 1910 Yankees.
Tanaka isn't very interested in discussing personal goals.
"Basically, just the number- one thing is that our team wins the game that night,'' he said through a translator Wednesday in Toronto. "So I don't really look at it in a way that it's going to be one win for me. And I think that winning games sometimes comes down to being lucky . . .
"All I try to do when I start a game is to win that game. I believe that's my job. Maybe other people around or the media are making a big deal out of it, but I don't look at it. So it's nothing that I should get excited about.''
But many others are.
"The fact that he's won 11, that's a pretty good ratio,'' said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who was GM of the A's in 1990. "If he can keep that up the entire season, he may hit . That's testimony to his dominance.''
Welch had 35 starts in a four-man rotation; Tanaka should get 33 or 34. Welch had only two complete games but was picked up by Dennis Eckersley, who had 48 saves. The 1990 A's also were third in the league in runs scored; the Yankees are 19th.
"I think he's the best,'' Eckersley said of Tanaka. "I think he's got better command than [Yu] Darvish. I've never seen anything like him. This guy is the real deal, great command and the great splitter and the slider.''
But Eckersley, a television analyst for Red Sox games, isn't predicting 20-plus wins for Tanaka. "Too many things have to go right,'' he said. "You can't afford one blown [save] if you're going to get 27, c'mon. Twenty is tough enough.''
Fellow Hall of Fame reliever Rich Gossage disagreed.
"He's every bit as good as they said he was going to be,'' he said of Tanaka. "He's a throwback to the way starters used to be. He's not looking over his shoulder for the bullpen to come in and save his game. He's kind of been a one-man show. He should be a great one, he's started off tremendously well.''
Dellin Betances has been masterful as David Robertson's setup man. "Obviously, Tanaka's been awesome,'' Betances said. "Nothing's going to surprise me from him this year. He's been unbelievable.''
Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer said Tanaka's ability to go deep into games -- he's averaged seven innings in 15 starts -- makes him a perfect candidate to approach a mid-20s win total.
"No one is going to win 31 games,'' Palmer said, "but 23, 24, 25 could happen, and Tanaka has pitched long enough where they are not going to minimize his innings.''
In 2010, Ubaldo Jimenez was 15-1 for the Rockies at the All-Star break and started the All-Star Game. He finished 19-8.
"I was like 'Wow, if I can go on like that, it's going to be a great year,' '' said Jimenez, now with the Orioles. "Tanaka's great and they haven't been able to do anything against him. Look at what he's doing and it's not even the All-Star break.'' With Erik Boland