Shutdown Breakdown – Appreciate Yu, Pal

Sorry about the pun in the headline. It was an accident. Never mind that, the intent is clear: Yu Darvish did something amazing tonight and it is worthy of our full appreciation.

The New York Yankees have a good lineup, even a great lineup. They are aging in certain areas, and 1-9 are still not as strong as the Rangers lineup, but any team that can send out Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira in a row is worthy of respect. Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher are no slouches, either. Darvish had his work cut out for him tonight. Plus, it’s the Yankees.

There are several notes that deserve our attention, and they’re all about Darvish. (I could have said “all about Yu” there, but I refrained. See? I’m trying to fight the urge to pun you to death.)

Darvish had a season high 10 strikeouts tonight (previous high: 5). He had a season low two walks tonight (previous low: 4). Of his 10 strikeouts, 8 of the victims were left-handed (Granderson twice, Swisher twice, Raul Ibanez twice, Eric Chavez and Teixeira). The two right-handers were A-Rod and Jeter. Four strikeouts were on sliders, three were on cutters, and one each on a curveball, splitter, and a running two-seam fastball. We have heard about and talked about Darvish’s array of pitches for some time now; tonight we saw it all in action.

The velocity displayed by Darvish reached a new level in tonight’s game. For the first time this season, Darvish reached back and hit 97-mph on the radar gun. It wasn’t a strike, but he showed that he can gas it when he wants to. Despite throwing 119 pitches, Darvish didn’t wear down over the course of the game. His 112th pitch was 96-mph, his 2nd-fastest pitch of the game. Below is a graph of Darvish’s velocity by pitch number, courtesy of brooksbaseball.net.

PE1The Yankees swung and missed 15 times, and 9 of those swings-and-misses were on strike three. You can watch them all here: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2012_04_24_nyamlb_texmlb_1&mode=box#gid=2012_04_24_nyamlb_texmlb_1&mode=video. Most of these swings-and-misses were of the entirely uncomfortable variety, including one of the worst looking hacks A-Rod has taken in his illustrious career.

Once again, Darvish displayed his tenacity on the mound, especially when he is in a jam. In the 3rd inning, the Yankees had the bases loaded and nobody out, with Granderson at the plate. Darvish battled to get a much needed strikeout of Granderson on a 2-2 count (on a very favorable call – see the red highlighted box below for the location of the called third strike).

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After that, A-Rod hit a tailor-made double play ball right to Adrian Beltre, who stepped on 3rd and threw to first base to eliminate the threat. Darvish hasn’t pitched all year as well as he did tonight, but the one thing he has done is mitigated the damage done, even in sticky situations. There wasn’t much more to this game than Darvish’s performance. According to Fangraphs, Darvish had a win probability added of 54.1%, meaning the rest of the Rangers team combined for a -4.1% detriment to win probability. There were only two plays that didn’t involve Darvish that ended up being significant: Ian Kinsler’s leadoff home run, and Joe Nathan’s one-pitch double play. 

It wasn’t Darvish’s first ever MLB start, so it may not achieve the same kind of legendary status it may have in such a circumstance. But tonight was special, and should be remembered in the annals of Rangers history, particularly if Darvish goes on to have the kind of career he displayed he is capable of tonight.

Huge thank you to brooksbaseball.net for much of the data in this article.

Peter Ellwood is a Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can email him at Peter.Ellwood@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @Peter_Ellwood
Peter Ellwood

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