The First Time I Saw Yu


Dec. 19, 2011, was not only the biggest day in the Rangers offseason, but for me as well. It was the day that MLB announced who had won the bid for the Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. To say I was excited would be a huge understatement. My Twitter background had been a picture of Yu for the previous six months anticipating this moment, and on this day I might as well been the guy in the Samuel Adams commercial.  
I had been following Darvish’s career for the past three years or so, ever since his name began to surface in SI and ESPN articles. I was intrigued by a half-Japanese, half-Iranian 6’5 pitcher that carried a rock star status with ease in Japan. Unlike many Japanese players, this kid flashed emotion while playing the great game and appeared to single-handedly bring Japanese baseball out of the Mr. Baseball era.

Flash forward to Aug. 1, 2012, when I finally have an opportunity to see Darvish pitch in person for the first time. I eagerly waited for the long-legged man with golden flowing hair to step out to the intro song that yells his name.
The first inning couldn’t have gone better as he struck out Trout, Hunter and Pujols in grand fashion. After another flawless inning, the third was an utter disaster which led to six LAA runs. After it was all said and done, I had witnessed the strangest start ever in person:
5 IP, 4 hits, 7 R, 7 ER, 6 BB and 7 K

Wednesday’s start sums up Darvish’s season in a nutshell. He flashes brilliance at times (first inning), but seems to wet the bed (third inning) at a moment’s notice. Darvish is not supposed to be the usual rookie as he has already had a solid career pitching at the highest level in Japan (NPB). He is a guy that has elite stuff, but this likes to nibble at the strike zone in key moments of a game.

“We’ve just have to keep talking to him and reminding him to attack the hitters,” manager Ron Washington said. “But sometimes when you get out there, you do what you think you have to do. He’s the pitcher. He’s doing what he thinks he has to do to survive out there. That part of it will come. There are times when he does go out there and pound the strike zone. There have been times when he has done that.  

Using the magical power of “hindsight”, would you still want the Rangers to commit upwards of $112 million (counting bid and incentives) to Darvish?

I say yes every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Why? How many big-time free agent pitchers have the Rangers been able to sign over the last 40 years? Unless you want to count Chan Ho Park, Kevin Millwood or Roy Oswalt, the answer is zero. But… but, what about Nolan Ryan you may ask? As good as Nolan was for Texas (14.2 rWAR in five years), he was 42 years old (!) in his first year with Texas.

Much like the Dallas Mavericks have difficulty getting a free agent player to sign with them, the Rangers equally have trouble signing a legitimate ace. Whether it is the heat or the hitter-friendly ballpark, no pitchers are jumping at the chance to see their ERA skyrocket like a Nelson Cruz missile. THIS is why it was so important that Texas won the Darvish bid and at the very least, gave them a chance to have a pitcher with elite stuff for the next six years.

Eddie Middlebrook is the Chat Coordinator and Junior Staff Writer for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at or on Twitter @emiddlebrook
Eddie Middlebrook
Eddie Middlebrook is Senior Writer for @ballparkbanter9 and @shutdowninning. Formerly with @wfaasports and @FoxSportsSW. @IBWAA member. Eddie can be found on Twitter @emiddlebrook.

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