Let’s cut to the chase: Yu Darvish was undeniably dominant for certain stretches during the 2012 season. With such a wide and unpredictable repertoire, an uncanny ability to miss bats and induce weak contact, Darvish effectively established himself as the Rangers’ ace going into the 2013 season. And who could disagree there (yes, Matt Harrison, you’re a very solid and serviceable pitcher, especially in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, as a lefty who for the most part keeps the ball on the ground, but let’s face it, strikeouts are certainly not your expertise)?
September 30, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (11) tips his hat to fans as he leave the game against the Los Angeles Angels in the sixth inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
Now, back to Darvish. It’s apparent that he’s a strikeout artist, as indicated by his 10.4 K/9, which was second among all starting pitchers in MLB to only Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers, who had 11.08 K/9. Darvish’s FIP was 3.29, which was good for 14th best amongst all starting pitchers in MLB in 2012. And lastly, Darvish finished tied for 5th with AL Cy Young Winner, David Price and the ostentatiously rich Zack Greinke amongst all starting pitchers in MLB in WAR at 5.1.
I don’t usually include nor mention intangibles, but it was irrefutable that Darvish showed all of the qualities of a true MLB ace. Between his mound presence, aptitude to get stronger as the game progresses and his knack for success during high leverage situations, Darvish simply had the aura of an ace, there’s no mistaking that.
Perhaps the biggest key to Darvish’s future (and continued) success is cutting down the walks. The biggest enemy to Yu Darvish may indeed be himself. In Japan, walks were never a problem for Darvish, but in his first MLB season, Darvish finished the season with the 6th most BB/9, with 4.19.
Onto 2013, Yu Darvish projects to be a legitimate, preseason Cy Young candidate. According to MLB Insider, Keith Law, “The version of Darvish we saw in the second half could easily lead the league in Ks or even in fWAR [in 2013].”
Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the 2013 season pegs Darvish at 5.7 WAR. But given the fact that in the first half, Darvish averaged nearly 4.66 BB/9, as compared to 3.67 BB/9 in the second half, the trend of Darvish cutting down his walks favors him greatly towards his continued ascent to true MLB ace-hood.
Sep 20, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Multiple exposure of Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish (11) during the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
Yu Darvish is in the category of pitchers who have the necessary repertoire to negate ballpark effects. Given the fact that Darvish only has one full season under his belt, it is still apparent that pitching the majority of his games in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is not a problem.
Darvish walks like an ace, talks like an ace (I love this display arrogance), and is well on his way towards becoming an ace. 2013 could be the year that Darvish takes the next step, or we may have already seen Darvish take the next step during the second half of last season. Either way, Darvish is everything and possibly more than what the Rangers thought they were getting themselves into when they submitted the winning bid for Japan’s greatest pitcher.
No Texas Rangers pitcher has ever won the Cy Young award, but Yu Darvish certainly stands as good a chance as any to be the first.