The midseason acquisition of all-star right hander Yu Darvish was supposed to put the Dodgers over the top. The Dodgers sent top hitting prospect Willie Calhoun to the Rangers for the Japanese hurler just minutes before the trade deadline. The deal was considered a go-move. It was meant to push the Dodgers into winning the fall classic. Having Darvish in their postseason rotation meant the Dodgers would not have to rely on Clayton Kershaw so much or start him on short rest like they have in past playoff runs.
Unfortunately Darvish turned out to be a bust, perhaps the biggest clunk in Dodgers history. His terrible pitching caused the Dodgers to lose the World Series. Don’t get it twisted. There were other contributing factors that led to the Dodger’s 7-game World Series loss to the Astros. I’ve detailed one big reason here. The bats went cold, Kenley Jansen blew game 2, and Clayton Kershaw couldn’t hold a 4-run lead and a 3-run lead in the game 5 loss, just to name a few. But if Darvish had pitched like he was supposed to then there is no doubt the Dodgers would have won one of his two starts resulting in a championship parade instead of another long frustrating winter.
The thing is Darvish was not having a terrific season with Texas before he was dealt to the Dodgers. As I’ve said before, in order for a midseason trade to be successful the player has to be having a good productive season. Otherwise you get a Curtis Granderson, or a Jeromy Burnitz.
Again Darvish was not having a spectacular year with Texas. He was 6-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 22 starts. He had given up 20 home runs in 137 frames and walked 3.0 batters per nine innings. He was giving up 7.6 hits per nine innings and had struck out 148. Those aren’t terrible numbers but they’re not outstanding either.
He was coming off his worst month of the season in July when he posted a 7.20 ERA and allowed 25 runs in 30 innings. Through August he had posted a 3.13 ERA and a 3.71 ERA in the month of September. Overall he posted a 3.44 ERA in 9 regular season starts as a Dodger. He struck out 61 and walked only 13 in those nine Dodger starts. His FIP was a solid 3.38 and those numbers look pretty solid. His first start was a seven inning shutout 10 strikeout performance against the Mets. In his last three starts he allowed just one earned run on nine hits while striking out 21 across 19.1 innings pitched.
Unfortunately the postseason is a different story for Darvish where he’s had some struggles. He’s posted a 2-4 record and a 5.81 ERA in 6 postseason starts including this postseason and World Series. His first two postseason starts were just fine. In his first start against Arizona in game 3 of the NLDS he allowed one earned run on two hits over five innings while whiffing seven. There was no pressure as the Dodgers had a 2-0 series lead.
In the second start he tossed 6.1 innings of one-run ball allowing six hits, one walk and striking out seven in game 3 of the NLCS versus the tired Cubs. Once again the Dodgers were leading that series 2-0 and there was little pressure.
The World Series was a different story. Darvish gave up 4 earned runs on 6 hits over 1.2 innings in game 3 of the Fall Classic against the Astros. This time the series was tied and he was pitching in Houston. He walked one and didn’t strikeout anybody. Flash forward to game 7 at Dodger Stadium. The most important game of the season for the Dodgers and Darvish once again cracked under pressure. He allowed five runs, four earned over 1.2 without a strikeout. One of those hits was a season-ending two-run shot to eventual World Series MVP George Springer.
Over in his two starts Darvish allowed nine runs (eight earned) over 3.1 innings on nine hits. He walked two and posted a 21.60 ERA while taking the loss in both games in the World Series. He did record a strike out in either start. That is telling.
There were also reports that indicated that Darvish was tipping his pitches during his two World Series duds. Apparently his body language was giving away his grips on his pitches. Houston hitters were able to tell whether he was about to throw a fastball, slider, or other off-speed pitch.
He’s also had a long and established problem in the first inning of his starts. Darvish is a free agent this winter and he has stated that he wants to stay in Los Angeles. He is without a doubt a classy patient man, especially after dealing with intolerance during his game 3 loss.
— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) November 2, 2017
However it seems as though he lacks mental toughness. He was unaware of his body language during his two World Series starts. He’s unable to control his mechanics. His arm slots and release points can fluctuate from start to start. He was unable to make it past the second inning in either of his outings and couldn’t even strike out a single batter. He melted down on the biggest stage when the Dodgers needed him most.
If you asked me, I wouldn’t resign him. Would you trust him to pitch a big game in the postseason again? Look deep because if the answer is no then what’s the point of wasting any cash on a new contract? Yu Darvish just might be the biggest bust in Dodgers history.