Darvish’s Dazzling Day

On Tuesday, Yu Darvish showed why the Rangers were willing to cough up some serious dough for him this offseason. He was dominant against the Yankees, pitching 8.1 scoreless innings, walking just two, and striking out a season high 10 batters. It was a brilliant start to watch, and I decided it would be fun to take a look at his PITCHf/x info for the game, and see how he succeeded, and how dominant he truly was.

Darvish used six pitches against the Yankees. Four were essentially fastballs, as he threw a four-seam heater 42 times, his two-seam fastball 14 times, a cutter 27 times, and a splitter nine times. In all, those four fastballs accounted for 92 of his 119 total pitches. The four-seam and two-seam fastball were very tight in average velocity. His four-seam fastball averaged 92.74 mph, while his two-seamer sat at 92.07 mph. His max velocity came, unsurprisingly, on his four-seam fastball which topped out at 96.8 mph. The four-seam fastball was the only pitch not to generate a whiff.

Darvish totaled 15 empty swings against the Bronx Bombers, a very impressive number. All of his non-four-seam fastball offerings resulted in multiple swinging strikes.  The highest raw total went to the cutter, which had five whiffs. The highest percentage of whiffs came on his low-70s curveball, though, which had two whiffs in just seven pitches (28.57 percent). His splitter and two-seamer both also had whiff rates in excess of 20 percent at 22.22 percent and 21.43 percent respectively.

Few questioned Darvish’s ability to miss bats, but perhaps the biggest key to his success in this start was filling up the strike zone. The pitch he had the least control of, which I say loosely, was his four-seam fastball. He threw that pitch for a strike 61.90 percent of the time. Only one other pitch, his splitter, tallied a strike percentage of under 70 percent at 66.67 percent.  His slider was thrown for a strike 70 percent of the time, the curveball 74.3 percent , the cutter 74.07 percent, and the two-seam fastball was thrown for a strike a staggering 78.57 percent of the time. If Darvish is going to throw strikes this frequently, hitters are going to find themselves in a lot of trouble taking pitches.

With so many pitches, and such a huge discrepancy in velocity (21 mph gap between his average velocity on his four-seam fastball and his curveball in this start), he has the goods to make lineups look foolish. In the rare instances batters were putting the ball in play, they were often chopping the ball into the ground. Of the 20 balls put in play, 13 were ground balls (65 percent). On the season, he has a 48.1 percent groundball rate, something that should aid him greatly in his homer friendly home confines.

Darvish is owned in 97 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and 100 percent of ESPN leagues, so you won’t find him freely available. Owners in re-draft leagues, and keeper leagues alike may wish to inquire on the cost of acquiring Darvish. This is a situation where it may pay off to “buy high.” His owners may still have questions about how well he’ll succeed long term with his first three starts, in which he demonstrated lackluster control, fresh in their minds. If that is in fact the case, they may view his scintillating start against the Yankees as a sell high opportunity. Don’t be afraid to deal an established and safer option for Darvish. He may have a handful of bumps in the road, but his upside of a top-10 starter is well worth the investment.