The Night That Almost Was, But Wasn’t


April 2nd, 2013 — A date to store in your memory bank. Since there isn’t a perfect way to put this, we’ll just let Yu Darvish‘s stat line tell us the story tonight: 8.2/0/1/14/0.

Through the first 26 batters, Ranger ace Yu Darvish didn’t allow a baserunner, recording 14 filthy punch outs, and 7 more outs via the ground ball. Of the remaining five outs, only 1 of them left the infield. Through 8.2 innings, Darvish allowed one ball to leave the infield.

Then, the 27th hitter, no-name Astro shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, struck a hard grounder that went right through Darvish’s 5-hole. His reaction was a split second late, and, just like that, both the perfect game and no-hitter ceased to exist. To watch one Astros’ hitter after another drop like dominoes until the very last out was a tough pillow to swallow. Yu deserved better than that. After the hit, manager Ron Washington removed Darvish in favor of LHP Michael Kirkman to ascertain the final out. Yu finished at 109 pitches — a pretty reasonable number for a pitcher in the 9th inning with 14 strikeouts. He was simply amazing.

Ultimately, like every other game outside the 21 perfecto’s that have been tossed in Major League history, this goes down as just another start. And that’s a minor shame.

But let’s sit back and appreciate what he did tonight anyway. Because it was pretty goddamn special.

  • Yu Darvish’s Game Score of 96 is the highest in Major League history for a pitcher in a non-complete game.
  • His one-game FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) total was -0.27. His xFIP (which, along with SIERA, is a metric designed to predict future ERA) was 0.02. (You know, basically allowing one earned run in 180.0 innings of work.) That’s obviously not going to keep up, but it’s a funny stat from a one-game sample size.
  • Single-handedly, Yu Darvish produced a WPA (Win Percentage Added) of .44; the entire Rangers’ lineup produced a WPA of .06, which basically says Darvish was responsible for 88% of the win all by himself.
  • His WAR jumped from zero (because he’d yet to play) to +0.6 in one game. It’s currently the highest figure of any player in baseball through two games.

The point is, even though it wasn’t a perfect game, or a no-hitter — hell, it wasn’t even a complete game — it was still one of the truly masterful regular season pitching performances of the last 15-20 years. The objective data says so.

Other items of the game:

  • Whenever someone asks you who had the first two extra-base hits on the Rangers in 2013, which will I’m sure happen all the goddamn time, your answer will be? . . . Craig Gentry. Yes. Craig Gentry doubled and tripled last night, raising his slugging percentage to 1.25, and his wRC+ to a robust 456. He currently possesses a triple slash line of .500/.500/1.25 NOW GIVE HIM THE MVP.
  • Early returns of Elvis Andrus‘s bat? Pretty good. Last night he tripled twice — just as Astro outfielder Justin Maxwell the game before — so let’s hope he can somehow keep it up. I remember I wrote when I saw him in Spring Training, so it’s nice to see it translate into games that actually mean something.
  • Ian Kinsler hit his first home run of the year.
  • The Ranger lineup saw 161 pitches (17.89 per inning) over the course of the night. Each player saw at least 14 pitches; Kinsler saw 20; naturally, David Murphy saw 26.