In recent decades, Japanese pitchers have been more of a novelty act. Hideo Nomo looked like Cy Young for about 40 or 50 starts, and then turned out to be a journeyman after hitters figured out how to hit “The Tornado.” Ditto Daisuke Matsusaka, who has been limited by injury and ineffectiveness to 120 major league innings over the past three years.
When the Texas Rangers acquired Yu Darvish for $110 million prior to the 2012 season, he had to fight the perception that he was another gimmick import. But whereas Nomo relied on his bizarre windup to fool hitters and Matsusaka tried to throw his heater past everyone, Darvish is a much different pitcher. Darvish often uses a one-seam grip, which turns his fastball into a power sinker. Darvish can also throw with different release points and different arm angles, making it very tough for hitters to pick up the ball in those first few critical nanoseconds.
Darvish is for real. He’s not a gimmick pitcher and he’s not dependent on physically dominating an opponent. He is very simply the ace the Rangers hoped he would become. When Darvish has his best stuff, he is truly a sight to behold; even when Darvish is off, he is a battler. In aspects of his game, Darvish is very comparable with Jered Weaver, Felix Hernandez and any other ace in the division.
Darvish had a rougher 2013, at least in terms of his win-loss record, because the club had problems scoring runs. Darvish had four 1-0 losses last season; only eight other starters in MLB history had four 1-0 losses in a single season. This season should be better, as most expect Prince Fielder to replace the departed Josh Hamilton’s numbers and for the club to return to its pennant-winning form on offense.
The future looks good for Darvish and the Rangers as well. Darvish is 27 and under team control until at least the end of the 2016 season.