No one really understands why Yu Darvish struggles seemingly every start against the Mariners. I tend to think it’s more of a small sample size issue, because it’s counter-intuitive to assume one of the league’s worst offenses somehow knows something no one else does.
So naturally, it should come as no shock that tonight Darvish posted 10 strikeouts in 7 shutout innings, allowing the same amount of hits (3) as walks. The universe rounded back into shape.
Tonight Yu Darvish exemplified what he is when his stuff is “on,” but probably not where he expects himself to be, being that he demands so much. The one nitpick (and this has been a recurring theme with Yu) was that it took him 111 pitches (68 of which were strikes) to make it through 7 frames; after all, his nature is as a control pitcher. He’s not exactly your garden variety “command guy,” however, as he has the ability to throw up disgusting strikeout totals any given time he has the ball in his hand.
I could splash around in the waters of Hyperbole Land whenever I describe Darvish, but the facts illuminate the picture for you clearly enough; tonight he faced 26 hitters, and only 6 (23.1%) managed to reach base. Half were walks, there were two singles, and a double. That was it. His 10 strikeout-performance temporarily puts him in the league-lead in that department — with 38.
His single-game xFIP tonight was 2.31, which was his average — to the decimal point — heading into the start. I just thought that was funny. His ERA is now down to 2.03, which is only slightly better than what his xFIP suggests (2.31), though his SIERA (2.01) indicates he is pretty much right where he’s supposed to be.
Small sample size disclaimer — because this was, what, his 5th start of the season? I like Yu Darvish a lot, and I haven’t been surprised in the least to see how dominant he’s pitched at the onset of the season, but we have to keep the scope of a full season in perspective at all times.
Because today, the Rangers announced their Opening Day starter, Matt Harrison, is down until at least the All Star Break with a herniated disk. He was just signed to a 5-year contract, so under no circumstances are the Rangers going to rush him back, thus jeopardizing his longterm health. The top priority is for him to make it back healthy. If that means he doesn’t contribute another meaningful inning in 2013, then so be it.
I’m not saying everything won’t go accordingly, but the worst-case scenario is something we have to be prepared for, even in April. You know the Rangers front office is already combing through contingency plans.
In Harrison’s absence, the Rangers are rolling deep into the unknown. There’s an added stress on the offensive unit — that’s been in a slumber so far — as well as Texas’s 3 remaining rotation constants. We need Yu Darvish to continue being The Man, Derek Holland building on his strong beginning, and Alexi Ogando doing whatever the hell he does to be successful with 1.5 pitches.
For the foreseeable future, we need to grow accustomed to seeing Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch in our rotation, even though that’s probably the most obscure thing I’ve written since joining Nolan Writin last March. From now until Colby Lewis returns — which unless something changes will be about a month from now — the Rangers will essentially rely on a #1 (Darvish), two #3′s (Holland/Ogando), and the tandem of two unproven Minor League pitchers who are susceptible to hard contact at this stage in their respective developments.
This is either very scary or very exciting, but probably more scary than exciting, especially with (a) Oakland’s strong start and (b) the need to capitalize on this fragment of the season where the Angels are without their most valuable pitcher, Jered Weaver.
Being without Matt Harrison isn’t going to help the Rangers, but it’s not the type of injury the team can’t overcome. Pitching injuries are functionally random; they can pop up at any time. If he comes back in a healthy way his arm will basically be in mid-season form if Texas should happen to make the playoffs. That’s the positive.
The flip side of the coin is a bit darker, but again, it’s exciting because it’s such a mystery right now: Can Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch really do something positive for us?