Yu Darvish, Ace

Yu Darvish is wonderful at baseball.

He’s still so novel, so intriguing to watch, that I can be sober and enjoy him just the same.

On Thursday night in a makeup game against the Diamondbacks, Yu Darvish struck out 14 hitters for the 4th time in 2013, in route to a 7-1 Rangers’ victory that was never really in doubt at any juncture. For more Darvish perspective:

What does it all mean? It means the Rangers have on their hands one fantastically dominant starting pitcher amidst an era where pitching is king. Is Yu Darvish the best pitcher in Major League Baseball? There’s an argument to be made, just as there’s an argument for a half-dozen other pitchers out there.

What does not require doubt is the value Darvish has provided in 2013, and how for some reason he doesn’t ever quite seem to get the recognition he deserves.

On the season, Yu has posted a Major League-best K/9 rate (12.07) — with nearly a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio — and, according to FanGraphs, he’s accumulated the 5th-most Wins Above Replacement (+3.8) for an American League pitcher.

Ahead of him, in descending order, are Felix Hernandez (+5.0 fWAR), Max Scherzer (+4.3 fWAR), Derek Holland (+4.1 fWAR), and Chris Sale (+3.9 fWAR).

Yet, for a half-Japanese, half-Iranian import whose services cumulatively took north of $100 million to ascertain — roughly $51 million for the posting fee added on to a 6-year, $56 million contract — he really doesn’t get that much press. Not unless he forces the issue by striking out 14 in a game, or something.

This, of course, isn’t to say his lack of through-the-roof notoriety bothers me; in fact, the opposite is true; I would say it surprises me more than anything, if for nothing else I feel like the majority of Ranger fans understand that Yu Darvish is a true superstar in every sense the label evokes. And that’s good enough for me.

Still, don’t count on finding Yu’s name coming up too much around Cy Young Award time. After all, Darvish is *only* 10-5 on the year. There are plenty of lesser pitchers with better records — probably with way better narratives to go along with their seasons — to accept such prestigious honors.

The fact is, his ERA on the season has sunk down all the way to 2.66; his xFIP is 2.64; his SIERA is 2.65; essentially, Yu Darvish is the prototype for all the fancy math equations FanGraphs has designed to quantify the overall effectiveness of a starting pitcher.

So you can keep your pitch counts, and the fastballs Yu is supposed to throw more of. I’ll just take him for what he is, a true Ace.


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  • BZ

    Amen Eric, Amen.

  • Tabe13

    You are completely right. The only problem I have with him not getting notoriety is when playing with him on video games. That’s the worst

  • Brandon Land

    Great article.

    If the Rangers go to the playoffs and Darvish has 2-3 starts like that in a row, I think people will start paying much more attention.

    Also, I really like the signs coming from Elvis lately. His BABIP has risen, I believe, about 20 points in the past 2 1/2 weeks and it seems he’s starting to get some of his confidence back in seeing some of those fall for hits. Even better? He’s hitting that inside pitch much better over that stretch. Hopefully a sign of great things to come.

  • primi_timpano

    Probably the best collection of stuff I’ve ever seen in a pitcher. He doesn’t have Koufax’ fastball or Gibson’s inside aggressiveness, but to have his repertoire of pitches, all of them either filthy or effective, is unique.

    Last night was an amazing game. There are few pitchers who are artists. Maddox had artistry but last night I had the feeling Darvish was composing his pitches, ignoring the game’s focus on winning. He seemed uninterested in merely defeating the Diamondbacks, choosing instead to create a choreography of pitches that became a dance of excitement and beauty. Yu is not an ace, he is an artist.

  • Andy

    There were whispers about it even last year, and some remarks here and there (usually in brief when the analysts doing a rundown of all the games stopped to talk about a Rangers game for 30 seconds), but the voices are growing louder. When the best pitchers in the league are discussed, Yu’s name comes up a lot. Right now, very few people would suggest that he’s a better pitcher than Kershaw and Felix, but he’s pretty close, which is certainly something to be excited about, as those 2 guys have been incredibly dominant for years and are as good as ever right now.

    He’s had a few hiccups along the way (lots of walks last year, intermittently allowing a few homers in otherwise dominant starts), but the more we watch him, the more I appreciate how special he is. While he’s not perfect, his stuff is unreal, and it’s beautiful watching him fool batters over and over and over.

    The term “ace” is a rather arbitrary distinction (a recent sbnation article on the subject is good evidence of that), but I’m not sure it’s important what you call him. He’s really, really good, and he’s ours and you can’t have him.