Part of Darvish’s evolution this season has come courtesy of Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel. He’s taught Darvish the knuckle-curve. Long noted for his wide arsenal of pitches, Darvish has another club in his bag now. He’s now thrown eight different pitches this season: Fourseam fastball, sinker, cutter, changeup, slider, curve, splitter and his newfound joy:
That one walk was a big deal and we’ll get to that.
In his 2019 debut, he walked three of the first five batters he faced and would end up walking seven in just 2 2/3 innings of work. Through eight starts, Darvish had 33 walks in 36 2/3 innings. He was walking almost 20 percent of the batters he faced. Opposing hitters had a .391 on-base percentage against him.
In Darvish’s next 10 starts, he would cut the walks down to 16 in 60 1/3 innings. His allowed OBP went down to .282.
Darvish’s transformation is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the same season. He has gone from likely the worst pitcher in the majors when it came to control to one of the best in a matter of months. In case you didn’t notice, here’s a look.
As noted, Darvish still gets stung on occasion by the long ball. Last time out, he gave up six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings due to coughing up four homers. He leads the majors with 31 homers allowed. When he’s keeping it in the yard now, though, he’s the best pitcher the Cubs have. Who would’ve thought after April we’d be able to say that? With variations — the “slow curve” and “hard cutter” — Darvish technically has 10 choices for his catcher to flash on any given pitch.
None of those guys had even close to as much trouble with control in the same season as Darvish had. As noted, we’ve never seen anything like this.
- Corey Kluber, May of 2018, 41 strikeouts and one walk
- Jeff Samardzija, May of 2017, 49 strikeouts and one walk
- Cliff Lee, Sept/Oct of 2013, 54 strikeouts and one walk
Darvish’s August is complete and he had 42 strikeouts and one walk. Here’s the list of players in baseball history to have a month with at least 40 strikeouts and one walk or fewer:
The guy who walked three in his first five hitters of the season and 33 in his first 36 2/3 innings went 36 innings without issuing a single walk.
The Cubs won a road game on Tuesday night and that’s been a rarity this season. They are now 26-39 on the road. The win Tuesday came with Javier Baez starring on offense and Yu Darvish pitching an absolute gem. He worked eight innings, allowing just one run (a solo shot from Pete Alonso, and there’s no shame in allowing that) on five hits while striking out seven and walking one.
Since the All-Star break, Darvish has been amazing, other than his proclivity to allow the home run. Still, in nine starts, he’s pitched to a 2.93 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. In 55 1/3 innings, he’s struck out 72 and walked just three. Three walks in 55 1/3 innings! He’s allowing just a .230 on-base percentage. The one walk he issued Tuesday was his first walk since July 23.
With this arsenal and Darvish’s newfound command, he’s become a second-half force. He’s tied for the NL lead in strikeouts since the break and looks the part of ace of a playoff team.