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Entries in Yu Darvish (21)


How do pitchers do on the first batter of the game?

We often hear about getting to a pitcher early, but I want to look at the earliest of the early and see how pitchers have fared on the very first batter they faced in the 1st inning.

Up first

  • Qualified starters are hit at a .253 pace by the leadoff batter in the 1st inning, batters have a .311 OBP, slug .393, for a .704 OPS.
  • Overall, qualified starters are hit at a .249 pace by all the batters they face, batters have a .307 OBP, slug .390, for a .697 OPS.

No surprises there. We expect the leadoff batter to do better than at least three and maybe four members of a representative lineup, so we expect them to be better in all statistical categories, but understandably, not by an enormous amount.

Who does well?

You won't find anyone better this season than Bronson Arroyo, who has faced 22 leadoff batters and retired them all, striking out five, getting eight grounders and nine outs in the air. Just to let you know, Arroyo has a 2.84 ERA in 1st inning and a .220 BAA.

Next up, is Jordan Zimmermann. Leadoff batters are 1-for-22 against Jordan with four whiffs for an .045 BAA. The one hit occurred in his last outing on August 2 when he allowed a leadoff double to Rickie Weeks and Zimm stranded him. Overall in his 1st innings, Zimmermann has a 1.64 ERA and a .163 BAA.

The third of four starters who have allowed one hit or less to the leadoff batter is Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie has faced 23 leadoff batters, walked four and allowed just one hit, a Matt Carpenter double on May 30. The Cards got to  Guthrie for two runs that night in the 1st, but Guthrie held them scoreless over the next five innings.

The final first batter star pitcher is the Mets phee-nom Matt Harvey. Harvey has allowed one hit and one walk to the 22 batters he's faced (.048), while striking out seven. The one hit was a Juan Pierre bunt single on June 2. 

First batter of the game strikeout leaders
John Lackey (BOS) 20 9
Wade Miley (ARI) 23 7
Ryan Dempster (BOS) 22 7
Matt Harvey (NYM) 22 7
Mat Latos (CIN) 23 7
Felix Hernandez (SEA) 24 7
Edwin Jackson (CHC) 22 7
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) 24 7
A. J. Griffin (OAK) 23 7
Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) 22 6

And the not so good...

I find this list fascinating because there is such a mix of successful and not so successful pitchers.

1st inning Leadoff Batter Struggles
James Shields (KC) 24 10 .455 2
Eric Stults (SD) 23 10 .455 1
Andy Pettitte (NYY) 20 10 .526 1
Shelby Miller (STL) 21 9 .529 4
Mat Latos (CIN) 23 9 .409 1
Lance Lynn (STL) 23 9 .391 0
Kyle Lohse (MIL) 23 9 .409 1
Felix Hernandez (SEA) 24 9 .375 0
Bud Norris (BAL) 24 9 .391 0
Anibal Sanchez (DET) 19 9 .563 3

My particular annoyance

I hate it when pitchers walk the first batter of the game. It irks me. Consequently, these guys annoy me.

Leaders in Leadoff Walks (Ugh!)
Tim Lincecum (SF) 22 6 5 .353 .500
Dillon Gee (NYM) 22 3 5 .176 .364
Stephen Strasburg (WSH) 23 2 4 .111 .304
Shelby Miller (STL) 21 9 4 .529 .619
Ricky Nolasco (LAD) 23 5 4 .263 .391
Jeremy Guthrie (KC) 23 1 4 .053 .217
Jeff Samardzija (CHC) 23 7 4 .368 .478

Finally, here are the seven starters who have allowed two homers to first batters they faced

1st inning leadoff gopher pitchers
Yu Darvish (TEX) 22 3 2 .158 .474
Kyle Kendrick (PHI) 23 4 2 .200 .600
Kevin Correia (MIN) 22 7 2 .368 .684
John Lackey (BOS) 20 5 2 .250 .550
Jeff Samardzija (CHC) 23 7 2 .368 .737
Gio Gonzalez (WSH) 23 7 2 .318 .682
CC Sabathia (NYY) 23 5 2 .238 .571

The best first inning leadoff batters

Here's a bonus for you:

Leadoff batters in the 1st inning
Shin-Soo Choo (CIN) 98 .353 .439 .671 1.109 30 5 7 15
Nate McLouth (BAL) 85 .342 .388 .468 .857 27 1 5 7
Eric Young Jr. (NYM) 71 .328 .423 .410 .832 20 0 9 6
Starling Marte (PIT) 102 .319 .373 .500 .873 30 1 5 27
Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS) 106 .313 .358 .495 .853 31 2 5 14
Desmond Jennings (TB) 76 .290 .355 .435 .790 20 2 7 16
Matt Carpenter (STL) 87 .288 .345 .413 .757 23 1 7 10
Michael Bourn (CLE) 81 .286 .321 .416 .737 22 2 4 16
Brett Gardner (NYY) 101 .272 .337 .380 .717 25 0 8 19
Austin Jackson (DET) 79 .271 .354 .343 .697 19 0 9 12
Norichika Aoki (MIL) 91 .263 .352 .313 .664 21 0 10 6
Coco Crisp (OAK) 89 .250 .326 .413 .738 20 3 9 10
Alejandro De Aza (CWS) 105 .213 .295 .372 .668 20 4 11 19
Denard Span (WSH) 92 .200 .261 .271 .531 17 0 7 19
Alex Gordon (KC) 83 .200 .277 .267 .544 15 1 6 17


After all is said and done, the best part of the leadoff experience is that the game has started.


Oh Darvish, Yu Good

Look out at the street.

Look. It is lined with the souls of pitchers from the Far East who failed to live up to the expectations that were placed before them upon their arrival in the US of A.

Their odd windups and magic pitches offered them brief success, but it up and vanished like a feather in the wind.

Pitchers like Hideo Nomo and Daisuke Matsuzaka came over with mountains of hype, pitched well for a couple of seasons, and then drifted to the island of mediocrity for the remainder of their careers. 

Yu Darvish arrived from Japan with similar hype. 

He arrived with magic pitches.

He arrived with an odd windup.

By this logic, Yu Darvish is your typical Japanese pitching import. But that doesn't mean he still isn't within that window of wowing fans with incredible performances. Performances like the one he had Thursday night for example.

Stellar work from the Whirling Darvish

Even more impressive than his 14 strikeouts on Thursday was that he walked no one during his seven innings of work. This puts him in a category with Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens as the only pitchers to ever have three 14 strikeout/zero walk performances in the same season. 

This was a very Yu Darvish performance.


Darvish generated lots of swings and misses (28% swing and miss rate) and lots of bad swings on pitches out of the zone (33.3% chase rate). He relied heavily on both his fastball (He threw 59 fastballs out of the 111 total pitches he threw on Thursday, or, 53.2%) and his slider (44 of 111, 39.6%). Getting seven strikeouts with each pitch.

He throws other pitches, but apparently didn't have much of a feel for them during his bullpen session prior to the game. Or he felt that he only needed the two pitches carve up the Diamondbacks offense. Either way, Darvish has transformed from a pitcher who was known for throwing any of his pitches at will into a fastball/slider pitcher with tricks up his sleeve if he needs them. And this approach was on full display the other night.

Strikeout pitchers are all the rage

Since the start of the 2012 season, 10 pitchers have registered 14 strikeout performances, seven have done it once, two have done it twice. Yu Darvish has done it four times. 

Outside of velocity (which Darvish has) strikeouts are the ultimate barometer for how dominant a pitcher is.

Darvish has 186 strikeouts to lead the Major Leagues. And his K/9 of 12.072 is 1.798 better than that of both Max Scherzer and Matt Harvey who have K/9's of 10.274. In fact, if the season were to end today, his K/9 would be the eighth best ever.

The Darvish fun factor

Yu Darvish is one of the funner pitchers to watch in all of baseball. Unless he's facing your favorite team. Then he's no fun at all.

He's still "new" to the league, so there's a chance that his brand of dominance won't last. There's a chance that he will end up like Dice-K. Or, he could end up being the Ichiro Suzuki of Japanese pitchers.

Please Yu, be the pitching Ichiro. 


Nine to Know: June Pitching edition


  1. No team's pitchers went full more frequently in June than the Royals staff who had 158 full-counts, BUT, they held batters to a .170 BAA on full-counts, second best in baseball to the Giants pitchers who held batters to a .150 BAA on full-counts. 
  2. Angels pitchers produced the most swings and misses in June with 460, 133 more than the Twins who had the least.
  3. Oakland's pitchers only issued 60 walks in 27 games. The Rays pitchers threw the most strikes with 2668.
  4. Which pitcher was better in June, Miami's Jose Fernandez or Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke? Each starter had five starts, each averaged 6.47 IP per start, and each had a 1.67 ERA.


5.  Chris Sale induced 88 swings and misses, the most in June, but was 0-5 with 3.15 ERA.
6.  A.J. Griffin produced 20 pop-ups, the most in baseball.
7.  Yu Darvish had the most strikeouts with runners in in scoring position in June with 14, James Shields was next with 13.
8.  Ian Kennedy allowed five homers in June with runners on base, the most in baseball, but teammate Trevor Cahill allowed 24 hits with runners on base, the most in June.
9.  In five starts in June, facing the 3-4-5 batters in the lineup, no one had a lower BAA than Jacob Turner who held batters to .119, Shaun Marcum of the Mets was next at .129.