Leave Yu Darvish Alone, Part Two


Admittedly, I have spent a healthy amount of time — more than usual, though that isn’t saying much — thinking how I should approach this article. It’s a conflict of interest of sorts, for I am a fan of all subsequent parties involved. On the one hand, we have two Texas legends: Character #1 is Jamey Newberg, lawyer, blogger, member of the organization’s payroll. Character #2 is Eric Nadel, voice of the Texas Rangers.

And I will repeat: I’m a fan of both men. I have been an avid Newberg Report reader since I was an early teenager; as for Nadel, by choice I listen to he and Matt Hicks call games on the radio every night, because Steve Busby and Tom Grieve, quite frankly, pale in comparison.

Here is where the third character, Rangers Ace, Yu Darvish, enters the fold.

On Saturday night, fresh off allowing 2 runs in 7.0 innings — with 11 strikeouts — Darvish was the focus of some Eric Nadel backlash via the radio broadcast, which Eric then took to Twitter:

We’ll get back to that in a minute.

On Sunday morning, in Jamey Newberg’s most recent column, titled Yu., Jamey doesn’t go so far as to say “Yu Darvish is not a winner,” or “Yu Darvish is not an ace,” but he does provide some interesting — if not completely confounding — perspective:

Do you ever wonder how good Matt Garza would be if he had Yu Darvish’s stuff?

Do you?

Garza’s mound temperament isn’t perfect, but I kinda like imagining Darvish if he had some of that.

Can he make that different?  Can he make that better?  Is that possible?

Isn’t it fair to say Garza’s stuff plays up at least a little bit because of it?

Is it fair to ask whether Darvish’s stuff actually plays down, at least from time to time?


But is it fair to expect an ace to reach for that next gear when given a lead, when facing the bottom third, when the instant situation calls for a beast to put everyone in the same uniform on his back?

Okay. I don’t want to have to say this (again); I really don’t. Eric Nadel and Jamey Newberg are smarter than this. They have to be. At least I would like to think they are. But, anyway. Okay. Here:

Leave. Yu Darvish. Alone.

Yu Darvish is the major league leader in strikeouts (225) and strikeout rate (12.05/9 IP), leads the American League in xFIP (2.65), is 3rd in the AL in ERA (2.68), 5th in the AL in pitcher fWAR (+4.5) and 4th in bWAR (+5.1).

Essentially, whether you follow sabermetrics or not, you would be hard-pressed to find a statistical measurement to suggest Yu Darvish is anything but a #1 starting pitcher.

But Eric Nadel for some reason believes his eyes are more accurate:

This brings me to my next point: What would impress you more, if Yu Darvish shut down the bottom of an order and got lit up against the middle, or the opposite? And what is this whole “clutch pitching” thing Nadel is talking about? His anecdotal evidence does not hold weight, not by a long-shot.

In what FanGraphs quantifies as “low-leverage” situations, in 2013 Yu has coaxed a .171/.239/.275 (.234 wOBA) triple slash line from his opponents; in “high-leverage,” or “clutch” moments, he has induced a .205/.225/.306 (.234 wOBA) line.

Identically putrid weighted on-base averages (wOBA) is both cases.

Furthermore, with the bases empty in 2013 opponents are hitting .182/.266/.317 (.264 wOBA); with men in scoring position, Darvish has owned hitters, as they’ve managed an anemic .136/.195/.168 (.168 wOBA) line. Not an ace, you say?

To put this in simpler terms, it really doesn’t matter what the situation happens to be. Yu is the same pitcher, if not better, when the game is on the line.

So now that we’re aware of the “clutch” fallacy, what could possibly be the reason for Yu Darvish’s lack of a “Winner” label? I could spend another 500 words discussing that, or I could refer you to LoneStarBall’s Adam Morris, so here you go:

Run support. Run support is the key to Yu Darvish being perceived as a better pitcher.

In 2013 Max Scherzer — the no-doubt-about-it hands-down American League Cy Young Award winner — has benefitted from 5.92 runs of support per game on average. If you need to know how a pitcher can be 19-1 at the end of August, look no further than that. (In the one game Scherzer lost, to the Rangers, he received only 1 run of support.)

Yu Darvish, conversely, has received only 4.56 runs per game from his offense, but even that doesn’t tell the whole story. If we throw out the 43 runs his offense generated for him in April, it shows that in Yu’s last 19 starts the lineup has only managed to produce 71 runs, or about 3.7 per start.

If you flip-flopped Scherzer’s run support with Darvish’s, national sportswriters would be talking about Yu’s season in an historical context. But as it stands, 12-5 just isn’t as sexy as 19-1, and it never will be. Starting pitchers are credited with Wins for how many runs their offense accumulates for them. Nothing else.

Part of me wonders — if Yu Darvish spoke english to the media — if he would still receive these types of criticisms. If that would help his overall perception. Maybe if he could explain himself in an intelligible way people would understand where he’s coming from.

Since he’s arrived in Arlington it has been apparent he is an extremely cagey individual; he doesn’t handle, or appreciate, media criticism too well. And if I were in his shoes, I can’t say I would be any different. In fact, I imagine I would be harsher, more aggressive. Now in his 2nd year, he’s on pace to eclipse his brilliant +4.9 fWAR rookie campaign by a full win (he’s currently at +4.5 fWAR). He has done everything the organization has asked him to do; he is unequivocally the best pitcher on the team, the guy you want to have on the mound regardless of inning or situation, he consistently stretches the perception of conventional pitch-count wisdom; he is, in every sense of an overused term, an Ace. A true Ace. What more is there to ask of him?

It is instances like yesterday morning, and the previous night before that after Yu Darvish exited the game, that makes me embarrassed to be a Rangers fan. It’s embarrassing because I have waited my entire life for this franchise to become relevant, to win more games than they lose, to maybe compete for a playoff spot every couple-few years. And now that we’re here, it’s almost like nobody — fans and media alike — has any fucking clue what to do with the success. If we aren’t complaining about an all-offense, no-pitching, all-around loser organization, then we go out looking for problems with the players who are directly responsible for shaping said success.

Yu Darvish is not merely a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, and the Rangers are not only a “good” or “serviceable” major league franchise. Darvish is on the precipice of being the game’s most elite of elite starting pitchers, and the Rangers are the model for dormant franchises rising from the ashes to become the standard-bearer for other franchises;

In that sense, Yu is a microcosm of the present-day Texas Rangers: Much better than he may ever get credit for, waiting for the rest of the world the catch up with him.

Because right now some people just cannot seem to understand.