For weeks, we’ve talked about Yu Darvish’s diverse repertoire, and how batters are thrown off balance entirely by the threat that he could bust out any one of six different pitches at any time. So, naturally, in his debut with the Cubs last weekend, Darvish was almost exclusively a fastball-slider pitcher.
… uh, what gives?
Well, first of all, we should be precise with the numbers. Per Brooks, Darvish threw 43 four-seam fastballs, 13 two-seam fastballs (sinkers), 38 sliders, 7 cutters, 1 curveball, and 0 changeups. So it isn’t quite accurate to say he was exclusively fastball-slider, but it was pretty close. Especially for him.
It’s not like he was getting such great results on the fastballs against the Marlins that it made sense to just lean on them heavily for that reason, alone. His four-seamer netted zero whiffs (that happened just once last season in a game in which he threw just 27 four-seamers), and his sinker netted just one.
The slider was doing good work, as it always does, and he used it liberally – he exceeded those 38 sliders just once last season. Since the slider is set up by the fastballs, they do work together, and therefore you can’t necessarily look at the fastball results in isolation. I totally get that. None of this is me complaining about the pitch selection.
Still, he wasn’t leaning heavily on his other pitches, and it’s interesting to note:
- His 56 fastballs were more than all but nine starts last season.
- He threw the cutter fewer than seven times last season just five times last year.
- He failed to throw any kind of changeup (regular or split-finger) just nine times last year.
- Just once last season did Darvish throw 1 or fewer curveballs, and how about this? It also came against the Marlins, who blew him up early (and he, himself, later discovered he was tipping his pitches in the game). So that’s kinda interesting, isn’t it? The roster has turned over a ton since then, obviously, but literally the only two times he’s done it since the start of last season came against the Marlins.
I tend to think this was at least partly dictated by the Cubs having a 17-inning game the night before, and Darvish feeling some pressure to pitch deep into the game. Go with fastballs, save the arm a bit, pitch to contact, etc. It just didn’t really work out.
Darvish makes his second start for the Cubs this afternoon against the Brewers, and you can safely assume he’ll open things up a bit more. Hopefully he’s got a feel for all of his pitches, and more successfully uses them to keep the Brewers off balance in a way that the Marlins didn’t seem to be.