I don’t know if it was because I was out doing a little drinking with some friends last night (outdoors and socially distanced, of course) or because I had some money on the game with FanDuel, but the energy during last night’s game had a forgotten palpability to it. The happiness that followed was well-earned.
The Cubs offense exploded (finally), they beat the White Sox (thank God), they inched closer to clinching the division for the first time since 2017 (huge relief), Javy Báez hit a double … left-handed, Willson Contreras flipped his bat to the freakin’ moon and was later plunked, Caratini went deep, Schwarber went deep, Báez went deep, and on and on. I just haven’t felt that alive during a Cubs game in a few weeks.
And of course, I’m leaving out what may be the best part of the night: yet another dominant performance from Yu Darvish, who put a perfect bow on top of his Cy Young candidacy with 7.0 shutout innings against one of the best young offenses in the league.
Just check out these three completely different, equally devastating strikeout pitches:
Yu Darvish. 98mph ⛽️ pic.twitter.com/U76odTikj1
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 26, 2020
Darvish’s final line read: 7.0 IP, 3H, 0ER, 1BB, 5Ks. And for the season, he held the White Sox to just 1 earned run over 14.0 IP with 15 strikeouts to just 2 walks. He OWNED the South Side of Chicago in 2020.
But how about the season? Did Darvish do enough to earn the 2020 NL Cy Young? I certainly think he’s right there.
Darvish will finish the season having made 12 healthy starts (t-2nd in MLB) with 76.0 total IP (4th). His 31.3% strikeout rate ranks 8th in the NL while his 4.7% walk rate is t-3rd. Combined, his 6.64 K/BB ratio is behind only Kyle Hendricks (8.00, league leader) and Clayton Kershaw (7.75 K/BB). Throw in his 0.59 HR/9 (3rd best in MLB) and it’s pretty easy to see why Darvish’s fielding independent stats are right up there with his two other Cy Young contenders:
NL FIP Leaderboard:
1. Jacob deGrom: 1.99 FIP
2. Corbin Burnes: 2.02 FIP
3. Yu Darvish: 2.22 FIP
4. Dinelson Lamet: 2.47
5. Luis Castillos: 2.72
Going down the line of key stats, Darvish remains in the top-10 for batting average against (.210, 8th) is one of just five guys to keep his WHIP under 1.00 (0.96, 5th). Meanwhile, his ERA was second in the league, behind only Trevor Bauer.
NL ERA Leaderboard:
1. Trevor Bauer: 1.73 ERA
2. Yu Darvish: 2.01 ERA
3. Dinelson Lamet: 2.09
4. Corbin Burnes: 2.11
5. Jacob deGrom: 2.14
So where does this mixed bag of statistics leave us? Because at first blush it sorta seems like he doesn’t lead any one category, so he must not be the front runner, right? Eh. Not so fast. While there are plenty of other pitchers deserving of Cy Young votes this season – and while Darvish is not the single leader in any of these categories above – he’s the only guy who’s truly among the top in almost every statistical category across the board. And that shows in the NL fWAR leaderboard, which not only has Darvish at the very top, but at the very top by a fairly sizable margin.
NL fWAR Leaderboard:
1. Yu Darvish: 3.0 fWAR
2. Jacob deGrom: 2.6 fWAR
3. Trevor Bauer: 2.5 fWAR
4. Corbin Burnes: 2.5 fWAR
5. Dinelson Lamet: 2.4 fWAR
Yes, fWAR is an imperfect stat – as are all WAR calculations – but the fact that Darvish was the only pitcher to exceed 3.0 WAR in the National League this year matters. And again, he didn’t just barely edge out deGrom, that’s a 15% increase over the guy in second place. (For what it’s worth, at 2.6 bWAR, Darvish is a bit behind the leader at Baseball-Reference (Max Fried, 2.9).)
And while we’re at it, nobody hates the pitchers win stat more than I do. But you know who loves the pitcher win stat? SOME of the people who vote for the Cy Young Award. It just so happens Yu Darvish led the National League and was tied for first in MLB with 8 wins this season. Predictive? Not at all. Revelatory about a specific start? Not really. Important to voters? Sometimes! And our guy is on top.
So whether you like durable pitchers, winning pitchers, pitchers from first place teams, strikeout artists, batting average and home run managers, or guys with pristine control, Yu Darvish basically checks every single box across the board.
We already know he’s going to be one of the finalists for the award, but as far as I’m concerned, he deserves to win it. It’s close – and I am obviously a total Cubs homer – but he deserves it.