1. JUST PLAY BALL
The temptation will be for Darvish to change things in order to adjust to playing in the major leagues. He needs to pitch with confidence. He doesn’t need to tinker and tweak and accept the mentality that questions if he’s good enough or not. Leave the questioning to the sportswriters and the bloggers. Pitch for pitch, his stuff is as nasty as anybody’s. Focus on throwing your pitches, and you’ll be alright.
2. DEVELOP A CHANGE-UP
Darvish is a notorious pitching experimenter. It seems each of the last three off-seasons he has entered the new campaign with a new pitch or two. The next pitch he should experiment with is a change-up. With his overpowering fastball and array of breaking pitches, he hasn’t needed to change speeds in Japan. But in the majors, batters will learn to time his current offerings, so it would be in Darvish’s best interests for his long term success if he started investing his energy in developing a marquee off-speed pitch. Not to replace any of his weapons, but just to provide another threat.
3. THROW STRIKES
This is true of any pitcher. Throw a lot of damn strikes. He established a great strikeout to walk ratio in Japan, and he should aim for the same aggressive, first pitch strike mentality in the majors. Dice-K got into trouble because he quickly became a nibbler. Refusing to throw the ball over the plate and trying to paint the edges. The problem with nibblers is that they fall behind quickly by putting themselves in the hole, then they are forced to throw their less surprising stuff later in the count. Throw the obvious stuff early. The fastballs and curves, and then put yourself in a position to throw your nasty rainmakers (splitter, slider) to finish off the batter.
4. COMMUNICATE WITH THE COACHING STAFF
Darvish, and many Japanese pitchers have a reputation for not admitting when they are tired or injured. The major leagues have the most demanding, day to day schedule of any professional sports league. You can’t hide when you need a rest. There are plenty of arms to back you up. Save yourself and limit your innings. It is in your advantage to only throw when you are at your fully rested, dominating self.
5. PITCH INSIDE
Darvish didn’t have a problem with this in Japan. Dice-K had a problem with it when he started out in the majors. It’s really important that you be able to throw to both sides of the plate. The tendency is to imagine all inside pitches will get yanked for smashes down the line. But if you don’t establish your ability to throw to both sides, batters will camp out, waiting for a perfect pitch on the outside of the plate. If they are expecting a ball to be away from them, they will be able to take more confident and powerful strokes, which will work against you in the end. Mix up your pitches, speeds and locations and use all the advantages you have in your game.Tweet