He might not have a many wins as Max Scherzer, and he may not be a workhorse like Felix Hernandez; in fact, he’s not even worth the most wins among starts on his own team. But if you were looking for the man with the absolute best stuff in the majors, you need to look no further than Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers.
In fact, as most folks who has seen watching the Japanese hurler throw in 2013, it’s not even close.
Think that’s a bit of a stretch to say? Among all qualifying MLB starting pitchers, only one has a double digit K/9 — that belonging to Darvish at 12.12. That’s to say that he records whiffs at nearly two batters more every nine innings than the second-best strikeout artist in the majors. He was the only starter in the bigs to be at over 200 strikeouts entering play on Sunday, or to put it more simply … he makes batters look silly.
Being the pitcher with the best stuff and being the best pitcher are clearly two different things, however.
Darvish found that out the hard way in 2012 when his 4.19 BB/9 often got in the way of his devastating arsenal of tricks, as he ended the season with a higher-than-it-ought-to-be 3.90/1.28 ERA/WHIP. This season has been a different story, however. Though it may not seem like it from game to game, the 27-year-old has honed his stuff to the tune of a 2.99 BB, en route to a 4.1 fWAR that made him the sixth-most valuable pitcher in the AL going into his start on Sunday.
But is it enough to earn him serious top-three consideration for the Cy Young award?
His 7.1-inning, three-run, seven-strikeout performance should help that cause, even if he did end up walking four batters. Actually, if there was one serious knock against him, it’s the fact that he’s still a little too generous. Despite his penchant for incredible double-digit strikeout performances, he has walked at least three batters in a start in three of his last eight outings, including walking 10 in just 18.1 innings in his injury-shortened July.
Of course, he did still post an excellent 2.95/1.15 ERA/WHIP that month thanks to a .169 BAA … which is to say that he’s putting on a show even when on a tightrope.
As always, it goes back to the stuff — that showstopping, near-unhittable stuff that makes him one of the most entertaining pitchers to watch in the bigs. If you were going strictly by value numbers, his Cy candidacy wouldn’t even be a discussion — he might not even be the Rangers’ best pitcher over Derek Holland, really.
Not many folks are likely to agree with that sentiment, of course, which speaks to the fact that Cy Young voting is far from an exact science and a pure numbers game.
And if Darvish is to have a shot at taking home some hardware after this season, his stuff will have to be so good and so rare that it alone trumps the fact that he walks a few too many hitters and gives up a couple of home runs too many.
Just like how those vices haven’t made a dent to his counting numbers, though … you know, that might just be all he needs.