The Texas Rangers 2014 Spring Training officially got underway on Sunday with the arrival of pitchers, catchers and a few other players. As the Rangers begin preparing for the marathon that is the MLB 162-game regular season, they have a few questions they must answer during Spring Training. However, one question they do not have to ask is who is their ace pitcher. Yu Darvish is the unquestioned No. 1 pitcher for the Rangers and one of the best in the entire league.
When the Rangers signed Darvish in 2012 many were skeptical. It was said that he would struggle the way so many other Japanese pitchers had before him. Darvish proved his critics wrong his rookie season by going 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA while striking out 221 and walking 89. Fans and media alike were excited about Darvish’s rookie season and could not wait to see what he would do for an encore in 2013.
Last season he went 13-,9 and the perception of some was that Darvish had taken a step back in his second season. If you don’t just look at wins and losses then you will see that that was not the case. Darvish’s ERA lowered to 2.83, his strikeouts were up to 277 and he walked 80—nine less than in 2012. His win total was lower thanks to very little run support from the Rangers’ offense, losing an unbelievable four games by a score of 1-0.
The main criticism of Darvish was that he was not tough-minded enough in the late innings and that he gave up home runs at too many inopportune times. Despite what some fans and media thought, the baseball writers saw the greatness of Darvish’s season, voting him second for the AL Cy Young award.
I believe Darvish, like any player, can improve in some areas. However, to criticize his 2013 season is simply nit-picking. Darvish heads into 2014 with a lot of expectations to live up to. The Rangers will only go as far as the pitching staff can take them, and the heaviest load falls on the shoulders of Darvish. He is a guy who doesn’t mind the pressure. He stays calm and pitches the same no matter the situation. While much is expected of Darvish with a much improved Texas offense to score runs in support of him, I expect him to not only live up to those expectations, but to exceed them.