Darvish is delivering for Rangers



WFAA Sports

Posted on September 10, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 10 at 6:58 PM

Yu Darvish didn't know failure.

The young hurler had a 1.72 career ERA in the world's second-toughest baseball league. His combination of devastating stuff, unrelenting focus and unshakable confidence had analysts raving from the moment he shared steaks with Nolan Ryan and well through the strikeout parade he conducted in Spring Training.
But failure is a difficult beast to elude. Through Darvish's first three MLB starts, he had more walks than strikeouts and was coming off as more cocky than confident. He pulled things together to an extent, but inconsistency plagued Darvish -- and after an August 12th Rangers win against Detroit, Darvish's ERA was a thoroughly pedestrian 4.54. The strikeouts were still there, but he was also walking more than 5 hitters per 9 innings and was melting down completely in some innings and undoing a lot of otherwise excellent work. 
Jason Cole, who writes for the scouting site Lone Star Dugout, was kind enough to give me some insight into Darvish's issues. "He had a tendency to give hitters too much credit. Yu hadn't faced lineups of this caliber before, and he played with his toys too much." 
Darvish was also tinkering a lot with his mechanics, which led to a lot of the inconsistency and walk problems. Cole said Darvish's intelligence and well above-average athleticism have him convinced the pitcher should eventually find consistency. And that is what we've seen from Darvish since his August 17th start against the Blue Jays.
You can see the numbers in the video above you, but for the sake of clarity and record-keeping, here goes: Yu has started four games and thrown 29 innings, striking out 34 hitters and walking only six. He has surrendered a single home run. He has given up 7 earned runs (for an ERA of 2.17) and posted a Fielding-Independent Pitching mark of 1.81. Needless to say, those are dominant numbers on any scale, regardless of weak opposition, luck, ballpark factors, favorable wind, magical lunar eclipses or any other possible excuse.
The question with Darvish is not stuff. It's consistency. Cole says Yu's elimination of a hitch in his delivery and a more consistent release point are the biggest telltale signs explaining his recent success, along with his fastball-based attacking mentality. The fact that he is doing his best work in September is certainly a promising sign with the playoffs on the horizon, but the Rangers' prized import is not completely out of the woods. He's a tinkerer who could easily regress again. But Darvish is still developing. He's only 26 years old and surely still adjusting to U.S hitters in his first MLB season.
Despite the walks (3rd-most in baseball) Darvish is putting together a strong overall year -- he's eaten up innings (169 of them) induced gobs of strikeouts (196, 5th in baseball) and his overall Wins Above Replacement, as calculated by Fangraphs, ties him for 12th among all pitchers. His 4.14 ERA is something you'd expect from a #3 starter and not an ace, but he has been seemingly victimized by poor luck, stranding far fewer runners at the end of innings than one would expect. 
Can he be the Rangers' playoff ace? That's a difficult question to answer. The Texas rotation doesn't have any clear-cut studs at the top, though Matt Harrison and Ryan Dempster are both having very nice years. Darvish is peaking at the right time, however, and as Cole (who you should definitely follow on Twitter, at @lonestardugout) stated, he likes the stage and tends to pitch well in big games. 
According to Jason, we should know a lot more about Darvish at this time next year, when, after a full season in MLB and two offseasons to adjust, he's more of a finished product. But for the time being, he's still a very solid rotation option. And if he can maintain what he's done over the past three weeks, look no further -- the ace is here.
Jason Cole manages and writes for Lone Star Dugout, a site focused on scouting and analyzing the Rangers' minor-league system. He's also a must-follow on Twitter at @lonestardugout.
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