Yu Darvish's 2018 ZiPS Projections Are Out, and They're Really Great

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Yu Darvish’s 2018 ZiPS Projections Are Out, and They’re Really Great

Chicago Cubs

One of the many ways to keep your baseball mind busy throughout a long and cold offseason is digging into the various projection systems for the upcoming year.

One of the best projection systems – Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS – are being released one team at a time, and the Cubs have not yet made the cut (we did take a look at the Cardinals, already, though). Fortunately, earlier today, the Dodgers ZiPS were released, and because all free agents are lumped in with the team for which they last played, potential Cubs target Yu Darvish’s projections are out there for us to consider! Woo!

Let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights:

  • 169.1 IP (28 starts),
  • 3.24 ERA
  • 3.22 FIP
  • 29.6 K%, 7.3 BB%,
  • 4.0 WAR

Obviously, Darvish hitting just 28 starts and 169 IP would be a disappointment, but Darvish, 31, has exceed that total in three of his five seasons, including last year. 2016 was one of the seasons he did not reach that mark, but he was coming back from Tommy John surgery and reached 100 IP despite not throwing a ball until the end of May. Given the 186.2 IP he threw last season and the ever-increasing success rate of Tommy John surgery, I’d say it’s fair to bet on the over in the innings pitched department.

But even if that was all he got, those are some fantastic numbers, eh?

A 3.24 ERA is projected to be 27% better than the league average next season, and fully supported by a FIP that would’ve ranked among the top nine in all of baseball last season. Indeed, if you can be a 4.0 WAR pitcher in just 169 innings, you’re clearly doing something right.

And how about those strikeout and walk rates? A 29.6% K-rate would be exactly in line with Darvish’s (dominant) career mark for a starter, and a 7.3 BB% would actually be more than a 1.5 point improvement on his career average. All together, that 22.3 K-BB% would be the third best of his career. That’s really excellent.

Only 13 pitchers were worth 4.0 or more WAR last season, and all but one (Aaron Nola) did it in more innings that what Darvish is projected for above. So, basically, if he’s on the mound, according to ZiPS, you can expect him to dominate.

(Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

And in case you’re still worried about that projected inning total, know that Steamer – a different projection system – is actually giving him 179.0 IP in 2018. Here’s what we had to say about his projections there, when they came out:

Yu Darvish

Stats: 179.0 IP, 3.81 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 3.7 fWAR

The projections are fairly kind. In terms of ERA, FIP, and WAR, Darvish’s projections for 2018 are even stronger than 2017. He does come up a little shy on the inning count, but it’s rare that you see any starting pitcher projected for 200+ innings these days. Perhaps the most exciting projection for next season is that he’s not expected to lose anything on his excellent strikeout (27.2%) or walk (7.6%) rates.

They’re not traditional “ace” quality numbers, but they’re certainly quality projections, and similar to the sort of numbers Darvish put up last year, when he was among the top 20 or so pitchers in baseball.

If you could lock in Darvish as a 3.5-4.0 WAR over 170-180 IP next season, you’d give him $20-25M without blinking. There’s a risk he wouldn’t keep performing at that level, of course, but there’s also a fairly good chance he’s a good bit better next season and beyond.

The Cubs, of course, will have their own internal projections for Darvish, and, thus, their own valuation on his future. But if the projections were seeing are anything close to reality, you can understand why Theo and Jed hopped on a plane down to Texas to meet him.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami