Could You Do What Yu Did?

Darvish
Yu Darvish has one of the most electric arms we’ve ever seen in a Ranger uniform.  On multiple occasions, he’s come very close to pitching either a perfect game or no-hitter.  He’s wowed us all with his immense talent and his jaw-dropping pitches which appear to defy the laws of physics.  We know what he’s capable of, which is why so many hold Yu to an almost impossible standard.
As the Rangers’ 2013 season began careening off the rails in early September, many observers – including some close to the team, like play-by-play man Eric Nadel – criticized Yu for his performance, claiming he was not meeting expectations.  What neither those critics nor anyone else outside the Rangers’ clubhouse knew at the time is that Yu was playing through some pretty significant pain.

The day after the Rangers’ season ended in a play-in game loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, it was revealed that Yu suffered from sciatica (not to be confused with the similarly-named manager of the rival Angels).  But unlike Scioscia, who’s been known to cause pain in his players’ buttocks, sciatica causes pain slightly to the north of that region: the lower back.

In Yu’s case, his sciatica is the result of compressed nerve roots, which is even more painful than it sounds.  For most people, this type of sciatica would make it difficult to even get out of bed, much less throw 588 pitches while striking out 41 big league hitters, which is exactly what Yu did in September.

For being a month where he supposedly struggled, Yu’s numbers for September are actually pretty good – even for most completely healthy pitchers – but deserve an extra level of respect when you realize that he posted them with a bad back.  His ERA for September was 3.34, which while a bit higher than his season ERA of 2.83, was still lower than he posted in his “worst” month (3.79 in May).

Yes, he lost three of his four decisions in September, but two of those were 1-0 losses.  The only two areas even remotely worthy of criticism are Yu’s average innings pitched per September start (5.83) and walks per September start (3.33).  Now that we know he was pitching with sciatica, it makes both of those numbers much more understandable.

Although Yu’s sciatica apparently didn’t surface until late in the season, he certainly did have a few bumps in the road even when healthy earlier in the season.  As great as he is, Yu definitely still has room for improvement.  He’s not entirely exempt from constructive criticism.  But now that we all know what he fought through during September, perhaps those inclined to criticize Yu for lacking heart, guts, toughness, a killer instinct, or #TWTW will think twice next time before firing such shots in his direction.

Bob Bland is a Staff Writer and host of the “Diggin’ In” podcast for ShutDownInning. 
He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or  on Twitter @SDIBob.
Bob Bland

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