Leave Yu Darvish Alone


Yesterday Adam Morris from Lonestarball tweeted this:

After a long night, I woke up late feeling like my eyes were bloodshot as I ran through my Twitter feed — normal practice in my normal, morning routine. For some reason what Morris wrote stuck in my head, because over Darvish’s last 2-3 starts something hasn’t quite felt right; though it’s less Yu Darvish, and more the coverage surrounding him.

Something I wrote about a month ago, in an article labeled “Fed Up”:

I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t at least a little disappointed that the Rangers only took 2 out of 3 against the Royals this past weekend;

which, you know, is a very greedy, entitled, arrogant thing to say;

but hey, those three adjectives tend to describe many Rangers’ fans pretty well in 2013.

I didn’t know it until after it happened in 2010 — or until it happened again in 2011 — that “winning” wasn’t really the same anymore;

the expectations ebbed and flowed in one direction for so long in Texas, and then the tide shifted;

now we’re here and fans have forgotten what the days of losing felt like, or they just hadn’t begun following the team until they made it to the World Series the 1st time, or 2nd.

 

Sometimes I wonder, usually to myself: what influences fans to think the things they think? How is it possible to uncover so much negativity within a product that’s been so strong 4 years running?

But then I quit thinking, because what’s it good for? Usually all thinking does it make me feel worse about myself and the doubts that consume my reality. Instead I should just sit back, accept the never-changing nature of certain things, and reconnect to Twitter — perhaps the most dehumanizing piece of entertainment that’s been created in the last decade — and do so because I’m addicted to the high frequency of information. I can’t help myself, and I can’t help the tone that involuntarily rubs off on everyone:

Jeff Wilson, after the game: Yu Darvish on throwing so many fastballs Sunday: “I just wanted to shut all the people up who were talking about my fastball.”

 

I have a few questions, but I really don’t know where to start, so here:

(a) Since when did every Ranger beat writer become an expert on pitch selection?

(b) Why now — opposed to any other point in the last two years — are they focusing on how inefficient Yu Darvish has been with his pitches? This isn’t a new phenomena. Anyone familiar with watching Yu pitch knows that rarely is he efficient with his pitch counts; that’s also to say he isn’t constrained by conventional pitch-count logic.

(c) Perhaps most importantly: why the fucking snark? Contrary to the slick, facetious undertones these writers sometimes operate with, the Rangers are not the New York Yankees. Not even close. All is fair in love and baseball, but the moment you have to start inventing storylines about a pitcher who has been everything the Rangers could have hoped for (and then some) over the last two years … that’s when I have to take exception.

Let’s take a look at Yu Darvish’s peripheral numbers over the last two years:

  • 2012 — 10.4 K/9 IP, 4.19 BB/9 IP, 9.1% HR/FB, 3.52 xFIP
  • 2013 — 11.99 K/9 IP, 2.94 BB/9 IP, 15.2% HR/FB, 2.65 xFIP

 

Obviously 2013 looks better. Most importantly, the walks are down, and the strikeouts are up; I find K:BB ratio as the best way of evaluating pitching in the current climate we’re in.

 

So why does 2013 look so much better? The way some of the beats talk about it, you would think Yu Darvish has utilized his fastball a shitload to bring so much success, right? His off-speed pitches are his downfall, right? Not really.

In 2012, Darvish threw what was classified either as a fastball or a cutter nearly 2/3 of the time (64.8%), and used one of his boatload of secondary offerings the other 35.2%. Primarily, Yu was a fastball pitcher, and it resulted in walking north of 4 batters per 9 innings (granted, over his last 10 starts his control markedly improved).

In 2013, the script has flipped completely. He’s used his fastball just 32.3%, his cutter 18.0%, with roughly half of his game turning to the stupid off-speed shit these beat writers hate.

Basically, it’s somehow being lost in translation that Yu Darvish’s best pitch is his slider, and it could easily be argued that his noticeable 2013 progression has been because he’s veered away from his fastball; his success does not hinge upon it.

I don’t know what the agenda is with the newspapers, or these writers, but my loyalty is to the truth only.

And Yu Darvish is just fine.

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  • Mike G.

    Great post, Eric.

    That is all.

    • Eric Reining

      Appreciate it, man. It’s Yu Darvish!

  • Jill Scheppler

    Fantastic perspective. Thank you.

    • Eric Reining

      Thank you for reading!

  • deedee2die4

    Allah has blessed Texas with the greatest Muslim in MLB history, Yu Darvish!

    Go Ranglers ( * Alhamdulillah

    • Barbara Holbert

      Yea, that’s so true, baby don’t you panic, by the light of the scoreboard it will all be alright, you’ll hear the crowd going manic!

  • primi_timpano

    Good comparison but that seems like a high HR/FB ratio, and would guess many of those HRs were off hanging curves.

    It is also my recollection that Yu’s post July improvement cooncided with a marked increase in cutters and being caught by Soto.

    • Eric Reining

      Yeah, I didn’t mean to make it sound like his HR% is negligible, but at the same time I don’t anticipate that rate to stay so high. Not in Yu’s case, that is.

      Per Fangraphs, of the 14 home runs he has given up this year, 6 have been on off-speed pitches (4 sliders, 2 curves), and the other 8 have been on some form of his fastball (4-seam, 2-seam, cutter).

      • primi_timpano

        Thx for the HR/Pitch data. It appears to dispel my offspeed hypothesis. I hope you are right about his rate getting back to “normal.”

        Very good article. Thx.

        • Eric Reining

          Thank you, but I don’t mean to “dispel” your point, because the overwhelming majority of the time, if you (primi) perceive an aspect of a player that’s out of whack, then you are correct about it. And it’s no different here: you are right.

          Regardless of which pitch was thrown, it was still hit for a home run. If you are Yu Darvish, “good” pitches don’t go over the fence; they just go to the catcher’s mit. Swing-and-a-miss.

          You have been aware for awhile of the recipe to my outlook on baseball. I’m 80% about the numbers, 20% my own perceptions. i.e. Most of my love goes to players who actually produce.

          Yu Darvish has the best strikeout rate among starting pitchers, and his control has improved by over a BB/9 in 2013. His xFIP reflects one of the 2- or 3-best pitchers in MLB; amazingly, if his HR/FB% was somewhere sustainable — which since it’s Yu Darvish should be league-average or below because his stuff is so elite — then his predicted earned-run average would probably be in the 2.00-2.20-range, which is pretty scary. He’s that good.

          Totally just wrote you a novel. Maybe I just get excited when you come around.

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