I am a headline writing savant.
If you have not figured it out yet, the headline is referencing Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish. Keith Law, not one for hyperbole, recently saw Darvish and had the following to say:
Darvish is the top pitcher in the Japanese major leagues right now. He earned the 2007 Sawamura Award (the Nippon Professional Baseball equivalent to the Cy Young Award) and the 2007 Pacific League MVP Award. He has posted ERAs less than 2.00 in each of the past two years, and struck out 418 batters in 408.1 innings over the past two years. Darvish is unusually tall for a Japanese pitcher; he’s listed at 6-foot-5, and only one other pitcher on Team Japan is listed at taller than 6-1, the 6-3 Hisashi Iwakuma. Darvish is also half-Iranian, which makes him the sole member of Wikipedia’s entry for Iranian baseball players.
As if all of that wasn’t enough to make Darvish worth your attention, he showed a ridiculous repertoire in his two innings of work Thursday. His primary pitches were a four-seam fastball from 91-94 mph, a two-seamer from 87-91 with great downward tailing action, and a hard slider from 84-87 with a sharp, long break and good tilt. To a right-handed hitter, the slider would look like it might hit him on the hands and end up in the other batter’s box; at 87 mph, that’s hard to hit. He also showed a slow curveball at around 72 mph, an in-between slurve around 80-81 mph (I called it a soft slider; another scout called it a hard curve), a so-so splitter with some tumble, and I believe one shuuto for good measure. He could probably go through a batting order twice with just the two fastballs and the hard slider, especially if his command is as good as or better than it was Thursday.
His delivery looks odd, but it works. He does have a significant hook in the back, but it doesn’t cause any timing problems. Neither does the weird glove-tap he does after separating his hands. He drops, drives, takes a good stride, by which point his pitching arm is well underway.
Darvish’s control wasn’t great, although the umpire’s strike zone was small. His command of the two fastballs was good, and he seemed equally comfortable throwing the two- and four-seamers. The four-seamer has just a little glove-side run, so he needs to set it off with at least the two-seamer. A decent splitter would help, but the hard slider’s velocity will fool some hitters who are looking fastball. The total package is that of a No. 1 starter in the U.S., especially when you consider his success in Japan, particularly in missing bats.
That is quite a positive review, and Mike A. from RAB told me in a chat last week that Keith said Yu is better than Dice-K right now. The problem, of course, is that Darvish will not be a free agent until 2014, so the earliest that he is likely to be made available to U.S. clubs is 2013. After losing out on Matsuzaka to the Red Sox, I would expect the Yankees to make a ridiculous bid when the time comes.
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