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Your Last-Minute Guide To Yu Darvish

Illustration for article titled Your Last-Minute Guide To Yu Darvish

What's his deal?

He's a 25-year-old starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers. They signed him after seven seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan. The Rangers paid the Fighters a $51.7 million posting fee for Darvish's rights, and then they signed him to a six-year deal with $56 million guaranteed.

That seems like a lot of money.

Oh yeah, it is. That's $100 million for his age-25 to age-30 seasons. But Matt Cain, who's older, just got $127.5 million guaranteed in a six-year deal. Baseball's rich now.


His last name sounds Persian to me. What's up with that?

How perceptive of you! Darvish's father is Iranian and his mother is Japanese.

Do people, especially copywriters, know that his first name is a homophone for the second-person pronouns in English?

Yu better believe it.


Why is he so great, anyway?

He has a 93-38 career record in Japan, with 1,259 strikeouts in 1,268.1 innings. His career ERA there was 1.99 and his WHIP 0.98. And he's young and tall with a low-to-mid 90s fastball.


How'd he do in spring training?

He struck out 21 batters and walked eight in 15 innings, four starts. He allowed only one home run.


How many pitches does he throw?

Writes Yahoo: "Some Japanese media members told Los Angeles Times reporter Dylan Hernandez that Darvish has more than 10 pitches. And that's probably just from the stretch."


No, really, how many pitches does he throw?

Writes Fangraphs, "Per the PITCHf/x data at Brooks Baseball, Darvish threw seven different pitches this spring. In order of frequency they were as follows: four-seam fastball, sinker, cutter, slider, curve, changeup, and splitter."


Shut up. Stop being an asshole. How many pitches does he throw?

Again, Yahoo: Pitching coach Mike Maddux clarified, saying that Darvish throws a "[f]our-seamer, two-seamer, cutter—so, three different fastballs. Four-seam change, split [-finger] change—he has two different change-ups. Hard curve, slow curve, sweeping slider, down slider. ... So, really, he's got four pitches, but he's got variations of each pitch."


What do the nerds and their computers think he's gonna do this year?

Baseball Prospectus says he'll throw 176.4 innings of 3.28 ERA ball, walking 51 and striking out 185.


That's a lot of strikeouts. Could it have anything to do with his nationality?

I'm glad you asked. Japanese pitchers have historically made American hitters whiff in their first starts:

• Hideo Nomo (Dodgers), May 2, 1995: 5 innings, 7 strikeouts
• Hideki Irabu (Yankees), July 10, 1997: 6.2 innings, 9 strikeouts
• Masato Yoshii (Mets), April 5, 1998: 7 innings, 7 strikeouts
• Kazuhisa Ishii (Dodgers), April 6, 2002: 5.2 innings, 10 strikeouts
• Daisuke Matsuzaka (Red Sox), April 5, 2007: 7 innings, 10 strikeouts
• Kenshin Kawakami (Braves), April 11, 2009: 6 innings, 8 strikeouts
• Junichi Tazawa (Red Sox), Aug 11, 2009: 5 innings, 6 strikeouts


How many strikeouts does Vegas think he'll have tonight?

Bovada set the over/under at six, with -130 juice. We'd pound the over.

Why did he wear that shirt with a marijuana leaf on it? Seems grimy.


It wasn't a marijuana leaf. It was a Japanese maple leaf.

Can I see a video of him pitching in Japan?


Anything else I should know?

He divorced his wife, actress Saeko, shortly after signing his contract with Texas. They have two kids.


No, I mean, like, baseball stuff.

Oh. He's the Rangers' fourth starter, behind Colby Lewis (who too once excelled in Japan), Derek Holland, and Matt Harrison.


That's something. You think he'll be any good?

Yeah. Unlike Daisuke Matsuzaka, the last posted Japanese superstar, Darvish steadily improved during his last few years in Japan. He struck out more batters, allowed fewer runs, all of that. He hasn't been overworked. He's tall and has recognizably great stuff, rather than the exotic, rumored gyroball. He's not a trick. He's the real thing. Now he just has to get to work.


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