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What is Yu Darvish throwing and how fast is he throwing it?

Apr 20, 2012, 11:19 AM EDT

Yu Darvish Getty MLB debut Getty Images

Yu Darvish picked up his second victory last night, holding the Tigers to one run in 6.1 innings, but it wasn’t especially pretty.

He handed out five walks, needed 121 pitches to record 19 outs, and left with a pair of runners on base before the bullpen bailed him out.

And overall through his first three starts Darvish has been effective without being hugely impressive, going 2-0 with a 3.57 ERA despite nearly as many walks (13) as strikeouts (14) and a total of 32 baserunners in 17.2 innings.

Thanks to the pitch-by-pitch data at Brooks Baseball we can take a deeper look at Darvish’s arsenal so far and his 333 total pitches break down as follows: 156 four-seam fastballs, 99 sinkers, 84 sliders, 60 cureveballs, 54 cutters, and 10 pitches classified as either a changeup or splitter.

Not many pitchers have five different pitches they throw regularly, but that diverse repertoire certainly matches the scouting report on Darvish from Japan. As for how fast he’s throwing them, Darvish has averaged 94.4 miles per hour with his fastball and 93.4 mph with his sinker. His slider clocks in at 83.2 mph and his curveball at 76.6 mph.

He’s gotten hitters to swing at 42.9 percent of his pitches and they’ve made contact 81.8 percent of the time, both of which are worse than the MLB average. That matches what my eyes have told me watching Darvish’s starts, which is that his raw stuff is very good but his command has been much shakier than expected and the hitters’ ability to lay off his numerous off-speed pitches has been surprising as well.

  1. Jonny 5 - Apr 20, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    Different balls and field dimensions from Japan could account for his lack of command in the strike zone. I’d bet he adjusts just fine. His velocity and movement seem good.

    • ezthinking - Apr 20, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      Field dimensions don’t affect command. And “Japanese baseballs” were not consistent because multiple suppliers were used. In 2012, they will only use Mizuno baseballs.

      The ball is not the question, the opponent probably is.

    • sneschalmers - Apr 20, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      Having watched a fair amount of both Japanese/Asian and MLB style baseball, I think one of the toughest adjustments Japanese/Asian pitchers have had is to the strike zone. MLB strike zones are very unforgiving, while Japanese/Asian (and minor league) strike zones have a little bit more give to them. At least that’s my hypothesis.

  2. beefytrout - Apr 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    To be fair, those runners he left on base would not have been there if Kinsler doesn’t commit an error. The walks and pitch count are still issues, but he’s shown improvement in each start.

    • fate4477 - Apr 20, 2012 at 7:04 PM

      Yeah, Gleeman…watch the f-ing game and make a fair comment when you speak in public! Kinsler made an easy double play to no out with two men left… It’s not Darvish who left those guys there… Jeez…

  3. sfm073 - Apr 20, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Maybe they should get him to focus on his three best pitches. Most pitchers in baseball don’t have more than three pitches.

    • wlubake - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      They already had him focus on his 5 best pitches. The other 3 or so have been shelved for now.

  4. deathmonkey41 - Apr 20, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    In the U.S., he doesn’t have to worry about Godzilla, Rodan, or Ghidorah attacking the stadium, so he’s probably not as concerned about being efficent with his pitch count. Geez, don’t any of you watch movies from the 60′s and 70′s? Wake up and learn what’s happening in other countries, for God’s sake.

  5. artisan3m - Apr 20, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    Right now, Darvish is “average.” I think he will improve but he gets behind most batters and walks ~ especially to lead-off batters ~ will kill a team. Yet he is 2-0 on a team with the best record in baseball. But sfm073 has a point. Get rid of the “cafeteria” and settle on a menu of his best three to four pitches. He’ll develop faster and SO vs BB will improve quickly.

  6. Senor Cardgage - Apr 20, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    …and left with a pair of runners on base before the bullpen bailed him out.

    He wouldn’t have needed to be bailed out if the defense had turned the double play right before his last batter instead of booting the ball for an error.

  7. APBA Guy - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    Years of watching young pitchers come up through the ranks at Oakland and then get traded away fully formed have taught me two things:

    - Darvish’s stuff is exceptional, definitely not average
    - He’s having command issues right now, mainly (I think) because MLB lineups are much deeper than what he saw in Japan.

    In other words, he isn’t pitching with the same confidence as he did in Japan because he has to be careful with every hitter in the lineup, especially against a team like Detroit, unlike the lineups in Japan which have some “easy” outs in them.

    We don’t know if he will gain the necessary confidence. But with his stuff, he can become a great pitcher, if his command improves to the point where he can throw strikes consistently where he wants to throw them.

  8. roycethebaseballhack - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    I heard some folks commenting on this last week, and its an interesting debate. The comments were in comparison to Daisuke Matsuzaka, and how he fared after being brought over.
    1) Like Darvish, much of Matsuzaka’s success in Japan came from him throwing a wide variety of pitches.
    2) Darvish apparently throws not just a fastball, slider and a curve, but at least two variations of each of those pitches. Even if a hitter could tell a slider was coming, it might not look like the last one he saw. You have to accept that this smorgasbord of pitches had more than a little bit to do with his success.
    3) Forcing Matsuzaka to drop the variations of his core pitches and focusing on his three or four best might well be at the core of why he’s turned into the pitcher he’s been in the last few years; good, at times very good, but not great. not worth the $$ Boston shelled out to get him and keep him. There’s a slew of American/South American pitchers who’ve achieved similar success at a lower cost to their clubs (excluding, of course, the Barry Zito factor…).
    4) The concern in Rangers Fandom is that, forcing Darvish into a four or five core pitches will result in a pitcher that is just, ‘high-end mediocre”.
    5) Factor into all of this the pitching mantra of The Old School Brother; throw strikes. Pitch to contact. Don’t worry about the ball going into play, you’ve got seven guys behind you to take of that. Keep us in the ballgame, and let the offense rack up the runs.
    So….while, in the micro-economic analysis of what Darvish is and the pitcher he’ll evolve to in The MLB, it’s likely he won’t be setting the world on fire. However, he does seem to be gaining control. He keeps the ball down and doesn’t seem to be getting behind a lot of hitters. Lots of potential, there. With that, he’s likely to fit perfectly into the overall club that Daniels, Ryan, et al. have engineered.

  9. dirkified - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    after 3 games and a 2-0 record, you need to give him some SLACK. At the VERY least, lets wait until after we win the world series this year to see how Darvish pans out. If ANYONE knows about pitching, it is Nolan Ryan. I think Darvish needs to get about 10 games under his belt to start calming down and throw with confidence. Rangers win will the WS this yeah and Nap will be the MVP.

    regards,

    15yr Ranger Season Ticket Holder

  10. dirkified - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    man,, I cannot type for crap!!

  11. stlouis1baseball - Apr 20, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    Admittedly…I am ignorant with regards to Japanese Baseball.
    But it seems that I have often heard their strike zone is very liberal.
    If true…this would be a very good reason as to why he is having trouble locating his pitches AND why MLB players are making contact with so much regularity.
    When compared to Japenese Baseball…he essentially has to put it on a tee for the MLB players.
    Once/if he adjusts to MLB’s strike zone we should have a much better idea of how good his stuff is.

  12. btwicey - Apr 20, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    Gleeman = clearly dislikes yu. :/

  13. randygnyc - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    I think he’ll get more effective, unfortunately, as he gets used to throwing our baseball.

  14. aceshigh11 - Apr 20, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Where’s the gyroball?? We MUST see the gyroball!

  15. Walk - Apr 21, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Reminds me of the kind of stats you would see from a rookie getting used to the league and new fields. However japanese players are not rookies even though they are eligible for the award. I expect he will will recover faster and pitch better heading into the second half. Of course i do expect him to wear down and pitch very little aftyer 120-130th game of the season if they do not watch his innings and workload. I think texas has a great pitcher here.

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