This Cubs season was probably over long before yesterday’s game began – let alone before Yu Darvish gave up a couple of runs (including the game-winner) in the top of the 9th inning.
But from the look of Darvish’s locker (and face) after the game, you would’ve thought he lost the entire season all on his own right then and there.
Yu Darvish said he had no words to describe his frustration. Pointed to his locker, which had mud caked across his silver nameplate. The result of an anger-fueled postgame throw of his muddy spikes.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 22, 2019
Yu Darvish is one of my favorite athletes to cover
Shows real emotion as evident by his locker today
"I'm so frustrated. Worst in my life. You can see it. Because we have to win, especially today."
— Rick Tarsitano (@RickTarsitano) September 22, 2019
Darvish was understandably thrilled to get the nod for the 9th inning, and I get that (he had a chance to finish what was still a really phenomenal game) … but that’s also why I hate that he let the results get to him. The Cubs had already dropped three in a row to the Cardinals, managed to score just 2 runs over 8.0 innings (again), and were not going to magically salvage the season.
Nothing Darvish could have done would’ve changed that. And for a guy who’s battled back this season with so much dedication *and* success, you just hate to see HIM be the one who is wearing it.
In fact, the only negative I can drum up about yesterday’s brutal ending to the Cardinals series is that it clouded yet another dominant performance from Yu Darvish, who had one hell of a final 2019 start at Wrigley Field.
Yu Darvish, 12Ks in 26 Seconds. pic.twitter.com/IuypXgLJNZ
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 22, 2019
I mean, every single pitch he used was working:
Yu Darvish, 4 Pitch Overlay (synced at release).
All Swinging Strikes.
Just wanted to see how much space that would cover. pic.twitter.com/1iiwWO7ngK
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 23, 2019
Final Line: 8.1 IP, 7H, 3ER, 0BB, 12Ks
According to the stats over at Brooks, Darvish’s cutter earned the most whiffs on the night (10), but his two-seamer (2), four-seamer (3), slider (3), splitter (3), and new knuckle-curve (2) all contributed just fine. Indeed, Darvish sat at 94-95 MPH all day and touched 97 MPH on occasion. He simply had it going, and most of the results speak for themselves. But I’ll speak for a few of them …
… Darvish struck out 12 Cardinals last night, which actually checks a number of boxes for the season/his career. Darvish has now struck out 229 batters in 2019, which is the second-highest single-season total of his extremely strikeout-heavy career:
- 277 Ks (2013)
- 229 Ks (2019)
- 221 Ks (2012)
- 209 Ks (2017)
- 182 Ks (2014)
More narrowly, Darvish’s 12 strikeouts make him the first Cubs pitcher in recorded history to have at least 11 strikeouts in three straight games and the first NL pitcher with 12+ strikeouts in 3 straight starts since Randy Johnson in 2001. They also helped bring his 2019 strikeout rate to 31.3%, which is just outside the top 5 in MLB.
Of course, if you limit your scope to just the second half of the season, the results are even more impressive.
MLB Second-Half Strikeout Rate:
- Gerrit Cole: 42.7%
- Justin Verlander: 39.9%
- Yu Darvish: 37.8%
- Lucas Giolito: 35.3%
- Jack Flaherty: 33.4%
How’s that for company? When you’ve got ONLY Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander ahead of you in any one stat, you’re having a good run. And it’s important to remember just how good this run has actually been.
From the moment Darvish *asked* for the ball first coming out of the All-Star break, he has been an absolute monster and it’s not just strikeouts: 2.76 ERA (2.84 FIP) with 118Ks against just 7(!) walks over 81.2 innings pitched. That’s a 2.2% walk rate! Darvish also did well to limit hard contact (31.9%) and opponents’ batting average (.197).
By fWAR (2.4), he was the 8th best starting pitcher in the second-half of the season, and by Deserved Run Average (DRA- of 57), he was the 7th best starting pitcher for the ENTIRE SEASON.
- Stephen Strasburg: 44
- Jacob deGrom: 47
- Gerrit Cole: 49
- Max Scherzer: 50
- Justin Verlander: 51
- Jack Flaherty: 52
- Yu Darvish: 57
- Lucas Giolito: 57
- Walker Buehler: 59
- Luis Castillo: 60
You wouldn’t know it based on his overall season numbers (because he really did struggle at the beginning of the season), but basically, yes, Yu Darvish was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball all year when you look under the hood.
And that’s why I’m right there with Brett on my excitement and anticipation for Darvish next season … that is, assuming he doesn’t opt-out of his contract:
Among the few great stories from this season, Yu Darvish's turnaround and subsequent explosion are right up at the top. Could be the Cubs' AAAAAACE from beginning to end next year, and regardless of the offseason, Cubs are gonna need that.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) September 22, 2019
We’ll have to dig into that opt-out decision soon. He’s currently owed $81 million over the next four years, which actually looks like a really nice contract for the Cubs.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.