Yu knew this was coming.
He was OK with giving up five early runs to an anemic Mariners offense in his first ever big-league start. He acted indifferent about an opening stretch which included 13 walks in three starts. He contended everything was fine.
And it turns out everything is fine.
Darvish found himself on April 24th against the Yankees. The 8-inning shutout gave Rangers fans a tantalizing glimpse of what their new hurler was truly capable of. It opened a window to the reason an astute front office committed 110 million dollars to his acquisition.
During his last three starts, Yu Darvish has been better than good. He has struck out 30 hitters in 21 1/3 innings while only walking 8. He's drawn weak, ground-focused contact. And he's done it against the 6th, 7th and 12th-most prolific offenses in all of baseball. Darvish has been absolutely filthy lately. If you juxtaposed his stats from the last two weeks over last season, here's where he would rank among 2011's league's leaders:
|Strikeout to Walk rate||3.7||14th|
|Swinging strike rate||12.8%||1st|
*Fielding Independent Pitching -- A predictive equivalent to ERA. Only accounts for peripheral stats: Strikeouts, walks and home runs.
Granted, the assumption that Darvish will sustain these numbers through the extent of a season is silly. However, I would believe that three-start sample far more than what we saw in Yu's first three appearances. Darvish has always started slowly -- during his first start in 2011, he gave up seven runs to the NPB's Seibu Lions (The Mariners are bad; the Lions might be an above-average AAA team).
Yu's stuff is making hitters look absolutely foolish, and scouts are more than happy to agree with the numbers: "If the command is plus and he's getting ahead in counts, he's going to be up there with the best starters in baseball." (Hat tip to Lone Star Dugout's Jason Cole, who you should follow on Twitter)
The command issues are still there, and it seems like they are the only factors which might hold back Darvish's ascent to ace status. But with his extreme tendency to induce strikeouts and get ground balls, walks will hurt him less than most. And while some may have jumped off the bandwagon after a worrisome start, it's becoming progressively easier to believe what Yu Darvish said all along: He's going to be just fine.
And maybe a little better than that.