As we approach the halfway mark of the Major League Baseball season, it’s time to evaluate how Yu Darvish has performed so far. I’ve broken down his season into several key categories that I’ve been monitoring. It’s been a great first half, but there is definitely room for improvement. He hasn’t reached his potential yet, but he has still managed to achieve solid success.
MOUND PRESENCE: A
From his first start, Darvish has shown no fear or signs of jitters on a major league mound. With his 6’5” frame, he has an intimidating presence on the mound, and so far his composure, under tremendous hype and pressure, has been noteworthy.
QUALITY OF PITCHES: B
Darvish’s pitches have been impressive. He is drawing praise for how he can make the ball move in all directions. Oddly, it seems his fastball is his shakiest pitch. His breaking and off speed pitches have been incredible. He has made dozens of major league batters look like little leaguers. This accounts for his 100+ strikeout totals through half a season. Once he reigns in his fastball, he will be virtually unhittable.
Darvish has double digit wins through just half of a season, but a few of those wins speak more to the power of the Texas Rangers’ offense than Yu’s pitching level. Frankly, his record could be quite ugly. A true ace needs to bring his A game, every time out. So far, we don’t know which Yu Darvish we will get when he takes the hill. Sometimes he has an assassin’s accuracy, other times, he plods through innings with high pitch counts and sloppy finish.
Darvish needs to stop walking hitters immediately. This is the one part of his game that is most damaging to him reaching his potential. He never had this problem in Japan, so it’s fair to say this is a mental issue. While there are some difference in the strike zone and size of the baseball, Darvish has the talent to get it over the plate more. Maybe he is in awe of MLB hitters still, and is reluctant to go right after them. But simply put, the games where he minimizes his walks, he is among the game’s best hurlers.
Darvish has come into a very tight knit Texas clubhouse, and has won acceptance from day one. It’s apparent in how his teammates talk and joke around about him. When you see the dugout cam during the game, Yu is often laughing with his teammates on the front steps of the dugout. This kind of bonding doesn’t always happen with foreign players. There is a tendency for foreign players to drift to the edge of team culture, and remain an enigma that only communicates through a straight-faced translator. Darvish has already flipped this notion on its head, and by all accounts seems to be one of the boys.
YU-NESS – B+
How much like ‘Yu’ has Yu been so far? Yu has sacrificed some of the rock star swagger he had in Japan in an effort to fit into his new environment. When he realizes that the MLB does not demand a bukatsu like stoicness, and that he can let his own particular personality shine, things will get really interesting. I look forward to Yu settling in and being more comfortable on the mound and eventually with the media as well.