In late April, we took a closer look at Yu Darvish's high walk rate and showed that the Rangers' putative ace was getting squeezed by umpires. Despite placing more pitches in the strike zone than the average starter, Darvish issued lots of free passes in part because he had the lowest called strike rate on in-zone pitches taken by hitters.
It's now early June, and Darvish's walk rate remains a whopping 5.4 per nine innings pitched. Yu's ability to miss bats has helped him remain an above-average pitcher (119 ERA+), but the only qualified starters with more BB/9 are Ubaldo Jimenez, Daniel Bard and Kyle Drabek. Unfortunately for Darvish and the Rangers, umps are still squeezing him, particularly on pitches thrown at the knees.
Darvish has received a called strike from Big Blue on in-zone pitches taken by the batter 71.3 percent of the time. The MLB average for starters, by contrast, is 79.8 percent. No other starter has been squeezed more frequently than Darvish:
Ten lowest called strike rates for starting pitchers on in-zone pitches taken by hitters
|Pitcher||Called strike rate on in-zone pitches taken|
Here is Darvish's called strike rate on in-zone pitches taken by the hitter, and then the league average for starting pitchers in 2012. You'll note that Darvish has a big blue spot low in the strike zone:
Darvish's called strike rate on in-zone pitches taken is below-average on high pitches, but it's the low stuff that isn't getting any love from umpires:
Darvish's called strike rate on in-zone pitches, by location
|Pitch location||Called strike rate on in-zone pitches taken||MLB Avg. for SP|
Compounding matters, Darvish has thrown more of his in-zone pitches low each month: 34.4 percent in April, 36.4 percent in May and 37.3 percent last night in a six-walk loss to the Oakland A's. In terms of pitch type, Darvish is getting squeezed mostly with his fastball, slider and cutter:
Darvish's called strike rate on in-zone pitches, by pitch type
|Pitch||Called Strike Rate on in-zone pitches taken||MLB Avg. for SP|
It's hard to say what, if anything, Darvish and the Rangers can do about umpires' stinginess so far. Darvish isn't getting the low strike, and he's a pitcher who likes to keep the ball down (45 percent of his pitches have been thrown low overall, compared to the 41 percent average for starters). Maybe Mike Maddux and Ron Washington can make a point to lobby Big Blue before Yu's starts.