Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish signed a six-year, $126 million deal prior to last season and then went 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA in just eight starts. He battled injury all season and overall just wasn’t very good when he did pitch. Heading into this season, he continued to report that he felt great in spring training, but then through three starts was 0-2 with a 7.50 ERA and 1.92 WHIP. Most concerning was the 11 walks in 12 innings, though he also allowed three homers.
Monday, Darvish picked up the victory for the Cubs in Miami. It was a mixed bag, but it definitely represented progress. Let’s take a look.
He was throwing smoke and his slider had sharp break, so the stuff was good. In his previous outings, Darvish was averaging 92.82 mph with his four-seamer (per Brooks Baseball) and on Monday it was 94.9 on average, topping out over 99 (Brooks). Of the seven times a hitter swung at his slider, four times it was a swing-and-miss.
After a busy first two innings, Darvish got a 1-2-3 in the third and that’s been a rarity in his time with the Cubs. He also worked out of trouble for the most part, getting a strikeout to leave the bases loaded in the first, getting three straight ground balls after walking the first two hitters in the second and then getting a strikeout to leave two on in the fourth.
Eight strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings is very good and two earned runs in 5 2/3 works out to a 3.18 ERA. That’s good.
Darvish’s command and control were still an issue. Even when he threw strikes, he was missing spots on occasion, especially early in the game. The four walks and one hit batsman weren’t good and shouldn’t be acceptable moving forward. I will say, though, there was progress on the command front. He was better at hitting spots than he was in previous outings.
It still has to be concerning how often he gets himself in trouble. Note above the two walks to start the second. In the first, he got two outs before an infield hit that wasn’t really his fault, but then there was a line-drive single and he walked a batter to load the bases — all this coming after his teammates spotted him a three-run lead.
Not being able to get through six against the Marlins is concerning as well.
In all, it was a fine outing. I don’t know if we can call it good when he didn’t get through six innings, walked four and was facing a terrible Marlins team. It was progress and something Darvish can build off, though.