Yu Darvish: The Next Clemens or Nomo?
His style of pitching is almost as mysterious as the origin as his name, and he’s all that’s been on the lips and minds of baseball writers since before the 2012 season got under way. It rolls off the tongue like something out of the kitchen of Wolfgang Puck: Yu Darvish.
For the record, while Darvish is Japanese by birth, he is of Japanese/Iranian descent, thus explaining the odd name. Now that we have that out the way, the question of the day is if Darvish is a true talent to stay in the league for years to come, or will he fade and burn once the next bandwagon comes along?
Before we get to Darvish’s future potential, the first thing we need to address is “why the hype?” One reason stands above all others; there is a significant lack of pitching talent available in the majors right now. Anytime a scout gets a whiff of the next Halliday or Lee they are all over it like ants at a picnic. Darvish for many years has been considered to be the best pitching talent not in the MLB, and with a career record of 93-38 and a miniscule 1.99 ERA, there is no doubt that this perception has been warranted.
After years of speculation Darvish finally made the decision to start negotiations with teams in America’s majors. News of Darvish really started to hit headlines when it was reported that the Texas Rangers paid nearly $52 million merely for the rights to talk to Darvish. Fortunately for Texas, the bid worked and he is now at home in Arlington with a six-year, $60 million contract under his belt. Not too bad for a pitcher who had yet to throw his first two-seamer.
But I wonder, why didn’t Darvish hold out for more? Likely because he knows that there are still nerves about the ability of Japanese pitchers making the transition to North American baseball.
Darvish now sits four games into his major league career and is a perfect 4-0 with an ERA of just 2.18. Add to that thirty-three strikeouts and it isn’t hard to see that Yu is definitely the man so far!
So, I revert back to my original question – Is Darvish the real deal or will he fade? Having seen him pitch in-person, I think Yu is definitely here to stay.
Unlike his predecessors (i.e. Hideki Irabu, Daisuke “Dice-K” Matsuzaka, Hideo Nomo) he isn’t a pitcher who has a style that can be easily deciphered. He’s a pitcher who doesn’t use power, rather finesse and ball placement. He has a wide range of tools to use at his disposal. This type of recipe is the one classic greats used to their advantage: Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Ferguson Jenkins (etc..). Watching Yu paint the edges of the strike-zone is like watching DaVinci paint a work of art – flawless and divine in the same mouthful. A hitter can sit around all day and try to time a hard pitcher, but one that can fool you with ball placement is a difficult talent to decipher.
If Darvish can stay healthy and constantly reinvent his game, as I saw him do this past Monday in Toronto, then I do believe he will have a place in the majors for years to come. Other Japanese players like Hideki Irabu had their game fall apart because they were predictable. Kerry Wood ran into a similar problem (which was complemented by injury).
My only hope is that he finds his way into a Blue Jays uniform at some point.
…and that is the last word.