Many of the Chicago Cubs – most of the regulars – have already faced pitcher Yu Darvish in their career, most recently when he was shutting them down in the NLCS. But the sides have never squared off as teammates, until Darvish’s first live batting practice session at Spring Training.
To say everyone came away impressed by where Darvish is right now would probably be an understatement.
Willson Contreras called Darvish’s movement and wide arsenal “insane,” and Joe Maddon was over-the-moon (relative to early Spring Training) in his praise:
That “low fastball” with great “carry” to which Maddon referred – the one every batter was talking about – would presumably be a four-seamer with huge spin, meaning that it won’t drop as much as a batter expects. So he sees it starting out at the knees, and the instinctive tendency is to let that one go … but then it doesn’t drop as much as expected, and Darvish has frozen you with a fastball. There’s a lot of risk with a pitch like that, because if the batter is on it, or if you’re just a little bit up with it, it could be the worst kind of meatball. But when it works, well, as Maddon said, it impresses everybody.
The batters included the guy Darvish said he wanted to get to know – Schwarber – because of the long NLCS home run Schwarber cranked. Unfortunately for all of us, Schwarber didn’t pull the trigger on a swing at any of the five pitches he saw (Cubs.com). Darvish told Cubs.com that he hopes to face Schwarber again soon, but, “If [Schwarber] swung, it would probably go over the fence. It’s a good thing he didn’t.”
Darvish spoke about his session and fitting in with his new teammates, and you can see some of it here at ESPN:
In the article where that video comes from, there are also comments from Darvish’s new teammates, generally, on what it’s like to face him, and it’s a fun read.
Roundly, you hear about the variety of pitches, all looking the same out of his hand, combined with the premium velocity. It’s interesting to think, then, about Darvish not as a “power” pitcher or a “nasty stuff” pitcher (though he is both), but instead think of him more as a “deception” pitcher. It makes you wonder if that will help him succeed well into his 30s, even as the velocity and bite on his slider naturally fades.
Also, it was Cubs photo day yesterday, and maybe this is why the batters were so mystified – all the swirls of energy were distracting: