Yu Darvish hasn't really been a disappointment at all in his first season with the Texas Rangers, and in his first season in the major leagues. Friday night he made his 27th start of the year, and over them all he's averaged more than ten strikeouts per nine innings. He's been durable, he's been difficult to hit, he's been showing signs of improvement, and he's posted one of the league's better FIPs. The Rangers are much happier with Darvish than they would be without him.
At the same time, Darvish has been a little disappointing, kind of, because when you watch his pitches and when you watch footage of his pitches in Japan, it's hard to understand how runs ever score against him. Darvish has now allowed 85 runs, 79 of them earned. Based on some of the pitches he's able to throw, those numbers ought to be more like zero and zero. Maybe like four and zero, if you count on some Ian Kinsler errors. Darvish generates a wide and unspeakable variety of movements and speeds, and when he's throwing strikes, or even almost-strikes, it doesn't make good sense that he can be hit. He makes the act of hitting seem almost impossible.
Below, to serve as the highlight of the night, please find consecutive pitches Darvish threw to Munenori Kawasaki in the top of the fifth inning. We pick things up with the count 0-and-1, after Kawasaki fouled off a 90 mile-per-hour something. I'll repeat: I don't know how it is that Darvish has allowed runs, or run.
When I first started pitching -- this would've been around eighth grade or so -- it was all I could do to get the ball into the 60s. My fastball topped out somewhere around 62 miles per hour. It got better over time, as I learned what I was doing, but for a while that was my heat. Darvish threw a curveball to Kawasaki at 62 miles per hour, with picture-perfect location. Geovany Soto didn't even have to move his glove. Darvish then followed that lollipop with a 94 mile-per-hour fastball. It didn't matter that it was an 0-and-2 fastball over the middle of the plate; after that curveball, there was no way Kawasaki was going to be able to catch up to it. That sequence...I don't like Yu Darvish, because I don't like the Rangers, but that sequence is beautiful. A shame for Darvish he didn't use it against an actual hitter.
I've mentioned a few times that I'm in the process of moving, and that was the last at-bat of tonight's game that I watched before I started packing my TV. The numbers tell me that Darvish really had the slow curve working, or at least that he was throwing a slow curve and the Mariners were allowing it to work. Darvish threw 11 curveballs. One of them was taken for a ball, and three of them were taken for strikes. Seven of them were swung at, and all seven of those swings whiffed. Interestingly, the curve hasn't been a swing-and-miss pitch for Darvish this season. It's been swung at just a quarter of the time, and missed a third of those times. That's a good rate of misses but a low rate of swings. The Mariners tried swinging and now in retrospect maybe they shouldn't have. We can all be smart in retrospect!
Anyway, Yu Darvish can do some wicked things. We've known that for a while, and tonight he showed proof. Just be thankful he only does this as often as he does, and not more.