Just How Good is Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish?
Many critics scoffed at the notion of the Texas Ranger’s $108 Million US investment in Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Investing so much money into an unproven pitcher from another country seemed absurd, the Rangers blind confidence in their investment was questionable and the “Cy Young Award” incentives included into the contract seemed downright laughable. Nevertheless, the only ones laughing nowadays are the Rangers, as their investment in Darvish is looking more like a steal with every passing day. Darvish has compiled a sterling 7-2 record thus far, thanks in a large part to his 0.96 WHIP and his league leading 12.71 SO/9. Darvish more than justified his contract last year with his stellar performance, but he seems to have elevated his game even further this year, as he now stands firmly supplanted atop of the Starting Pitcher food chain. So…just what has gotten into Yu?
Firstly, Darvish seems to have lady luck on his side again. A look at Darvish’s 2012 stat-line shows that opponents compiled a whopping .295 BABIP against Darvish last year. Though this just slightly higher than the Major League Baseball average, a pitcher with such a high strikeout rate as Darvish tends to generate weaker contact rates, and therefore allow fewer hits on balls in play. When you combine this with the fact that Darvish’s FIP of 3.29 and xFIP of 3.52, was significantly lower than his ERA of 3.90, you can conclude that Darvish was actually quite unlucky last year. The tables have turned for Darvish this year, as his .263 BABIP and his FIP/xFIP numbers correlate much better to his 3.03 ERA and respective performance.
Aside from luck, Darvish’s dismal walk rate of 4.99BB/9 last year has dropped to 2.66 this year. While this would normally suggest that a pitcher simply has improved his command, this stat is actually at the heart of Darvish’s major improvements. It is worth noting that the Japanese baseball is wound more tightly and is harder than it’s American counterpart and Darvish’s improved command should be credited to his acclimatization of the MLB league and more importantly, it’s baseball. Just how important is this?
Brooks Baseball shows that the average velocity on Darvish’s fastball has upped a tick by about 1MPH from last year to this year, which should be accredited to his familiarity with the baseball. The logistics are simple, Darvish was holding back a little last year as he could not command the new baseball as well. More importantly, Brooks Baseball reveals that Darvish has actually gained movement on all his pitches, which further supports the above-mentioned claim. Needless to say, the added movement has caused opponents to swing and miss more, as his pitches are starting further in the strike-zone and darting out much quicker and faster or vice versa. Darvish is now translating the same combination of pinpoint control to go with a lethal repertoire of pitches that made him the top pitcher in Japan. If you’ve ever wonder what it feels like to pitch like Yu Darvish, go and buy a set of Wiffle Balls and start throwing…I’m serious.
In all, Darvish is every bit as good as advertised, maybe even better and when all is said and done, he could be one of the best. It’s been said that “Yu are only as good as when Yu are at your worst”, and at the minute nothing can compare to Yu, because even at his worst, Yu is pretty damn good. It’s also been said that one must not write an article on Yu Darvish without inserting a couple of tasteless puns…okay I’m done, Ciao.