Yu Darvish (And His MLB-Best Cutter) Deserve Some Serious Love

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Yu Darvish (And His MLB-Best Cutter) Deserve Some Serious Love

Chicago Cubs

The offense let the team down AGAIN last night, and everyone from the players (inconsistent performance), to the manager (poor-process decisions), to the front office (insufficient roster management in the offseason) deserve criticism for it. But Yu Darvish? That man deserves some love. And so does his cutter.

Before last night’s game, I pointed out that although not all of Darvish’s last 12 starts (before last night’s game) were good ones, most of them (10) were at least 6.0 innings in length – which is important for any number of reasons. Well, Darvish delivered another 6 inning start last night (so make that 11 of his last 13), but this time, he brought a lot more to the table than that.

You can check out the full-game highlights right here, but for now, let’s enjoy these three early strikeouts – swinging on an 86 MPH cutter, looking on a 98 MPH four-seamer, and swinging on another 88 MPH cutter.

Darvish’s Final Line: 6.0 IP, 6H, 2ER, 0BB, 9Ks.

Darvish struck NINE batters out last night on the strength of an impressive 15 whiffs. That’s good for a 13.3% whiff rate, according to FanGraphs, which is among his higher rates this year. Here’s the breakdown of which pitches were generating all that wind:

Four-Seamer: 6 whiffs
Changeup: 2 whiffs
Curveball: 1 whiff
Cutter: 6 whiffs

On top of the six swinging strikes earned by his cutter, Darvish recorded ANOTHER 20 strikes looking, which is good for an 81.3% strike-rate on that pitch. Unsurprisingly, that’s tied for the third highest rating his cutter has been in a single game this season (1.8). What’s very surprising, however, is just how well his cutter ranks relative to the rest of the league …

Cutter Value Leaderboards:

  1. Yu Darvish: 19.2
  2. Martin Perez: 11.8
  3. Wade Miley: 9.2
  4. Zach Eflin: 7.1
  5. Mike Leake: 4.3
  6. Charlie Morton: 3.3
  7. Jon Lester: 3.1
  8. Brett Anderson: 3.1
  9. Walker Buehler: 2.9
  10. Hyun-Jin Ryu: 2.8

Holy. Cow. Darvish’s cutter isn’t just the best in MLB, it’s the best in MLB by a country mile. Or a city mile. Whichever one is longer. I’m pretty sure bricks and feathers weigh the same, if that helps.

Now, it’s possible that some of his higher velocity sliders are getting incorrectly classified as cutters, but both Brooks Baseball and FanGraphs have a similar relative count of each for last night, so I’m not so sure that’s much of an issue here. Instead, I just think I totally whiffed on how freakin’ excellent that pitch has been for him all season.

Speaking of all season, Darvish’s strikeout rate has crept all the way up to 27.6% while his walk rate is at an even 10.0%. But while command was an issue early on, it has not been a problem here lately. At all. Darvish has just two walks this entire month (over five starts!), which equates to a 1.7% walk rate.

And while we’re here, just look at his numbers in July …

When Darvish was at his absolute-best, his strikeout rate was basically exactly where it’s at during this stretch, but even then, his walk rate was between 7.5-9.5%. And despite living in an era where the average hard-hit rate is higher than ever (because of the juiced baseballs), his hard-hit rate both in this stretch (23.1%) and for the season (28.1%) is better than it’s ever been.

In fact, Yu Darvish’s hard-hit rate is the SECOND LOWEST in all of baseball – sandwiched between some very good pitchers:

  1. Stephen Strasburg: 27.4%
  2. Yu Darvish: 28.1%
  3. Noah Syndergaard: 28.8%

I suppose we’ll have to see if (and for how long) Darvish can keep up this pace, but for about a full month now he’s been one of the better pitchers in baseball and he’s doing it with (1) a ton of strikeouts, (2) a ton of weak contact, and (3) very few walks. You can’t ask for anything else.

Well, maybe more than 1 run a night from the offense. But don’t get greedy.

(photo by getty images)

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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