It’s difficult not to overreact to early season numbers, especially with a guy with no previous track record in America, but Darvish has been getting too cute with his pitches thus far. Over 11.1 innings, Darvish has walked eight batters but he has also struck out nine. That tells me he has plenty of stuff, he just needs to get more aggressive.
Darvish has failed to get out of the sixth inning so far, throwing 111 pitches over 5.2 innings in his first start and 102 pitches over 5.1 innings in his second. A more aggressive approach would also help the 6-5 right-hander pitch deeper into games.
To his credit, Darvish has yet to allow a home run, but has a 4.76 ERA and ugly 2.21 WHIP. What’s more alarming is those numbers came against the Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins, the two worst offenses in the American League last year.
It could be Darvish needs to scrap one or two of the six pitches he throws to focus on developing a better feel for the rest of his arsenal. Pitchers who come up through the minor leagues often find once they reach a certain level, a pitch is no longer effective enough to get guys out. That could be what we’re seeing with some of Darvish‘s secondary pitches.
Either way, I’m going to look for Darvish to pump fastballs in the first time through the Tiger lineup, then focus on his off speed stuff in the middle part of the game. Obviously, he’s going to need to be careful with Cabrera and Fielder, but he can still establish his fastball at the same time.
Adam Wilk will be making his second Major League start for the Tigers, meaning there’s a great chance Darvish will be given plenty of run support from the potent Rangers lineup. It’s gotta be nice to have that room for error.
While Darvish headlines today’s probables, my matchup to watch is Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays vs. Henderson Alvarez of the Toronto Blue Jays. These two pitch to contact, but have both been very successful over their young careers.
Combined, Hellickson and Alvarez have just nine strikeouts over 26.2 innings pitched. Hellickson has somehow managed to get by with issuing seven walks, while Alvarez has walked just two batters.
The thing I find interesting about these two pitchers is their performances defy advanced metrics. Both pitchers have a BABIP of under .200 (which is thought to be impossibly unsustainable) and a FIP over 5.00 (which suggests they‘re both lucky and benefit from good defense).
Despite what the numbers say, Hellickson has a 3.05 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and .213 BAA over 239 innings in his career and Alvarez has marks of 3.40, 1.10 and .253 over his 76.2 innings so far as a major leaguer.
Cubs (Samardzjia) at Marlins (Nolasco), 12:40 p.m. ET
Dodgers (Harang) at Brewers (Wolf), 1:10
Reds (Arroyo) at Cardinals (Wainwright), 1:45
Orioles (Hammel) at White Sox (Floyd), 2:10
Astros (Norris) at Nationals (Jackson), 7:05
Twins (Swarzak) at Yankees (Hughes), 7:05
Rangers (Darvish) at Tigers (Wilk), 7:05
Rays (Hellickson) at Blue Jays (Alvarez), 7:07
Braves (Minor) at Diamondbacks (Collmenter), 9:40
Athletics (Milone) at Angels (Wilson), 10:05
Phillies (Worley) at Padres (Wieland), 10:05
Indians (Tomlin) at Mariners (Hernandez), 10:10
Pitching Primer, which previews the days’s pitching probables, is a regular feature on Rant Sports. It paint’s a picture of America’s Pastime’s potentially perfect matchups. If you’ve got a pedigree of predicting future aces, take pride in your penchant for pitching or have a poetic prose, please leave a comment. Pitching Primer is posted practically every morning by Tom Froemming, but he‘s no perfectionist. Plus, days off are primarily provided so the “p” on his keyboard can have a break.