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Entries in Yu Darvish (21)


Yu Not Getting Calls on the Glove Side

Yu Darvish's first stateside season has been equal parts exhilarating and exasperating. Darvish has struck out 25.8% of batters faced, which ranks behind just Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey among qualified starters. Yet he has also walked hitters 12.6% of the time -- only Edinson Volquez, Carlos Zambrano and Ubaldo Jimenez has issued a higher percentage of free passes.

As we've documented before, Yu hasn't been as control-challenged as you might think. Rather, he has had difficulty getting calls on borderline pitches. Now that we're five months into the season, it has become clear that umps aren't calling many strikes on Darvish's glove-side pitches. He gets an above-average number of called strikes and has an above-average strike rate on arm side pitches. But to the glove side, he's getting precious few calls and has thrown strikes just over 46% of the time:

Pitch LocationCalled Strike Rate on in-zone pitches takenCalled Strike Rate on out-of-zone pitches takenOverall Called Strike RateStrike Pct.
To Arm Side 84.9 15.2 34.8 62.2
MLB Avg. for right-handed SP 84.7 16.1 32.5 61.8
To Glove Side 62.2 1.3 17.3 46.3
MLB Avg. for right-handed SP 71.8 5.9 24.7 53.8


Here's Darvish called strike rate on glove-side pitches, compared to the average for righty starters. Low-and-away seems to be the biggest problem spot:

Darvish's called strike rate on glove-side pitches


Average called strike rate on glove-side pitches for RH SP

Breaking it down by pitch type, Darvish has a 19.4% called strike rate on glove-side fastballs (30.5% average for righty starters), 13.5% on sliders (17.4% average) and 10.9% on cutters (21% average). Overall, Ervin Santana and Edwin Jackson (two other slider specialists) are the only righties with a lower called strike rate on glove-side pitches:

Lowest called strike rate on glove-side pitches among right-handed SP

PitcherCalled Strike Rate on Glove-Side Pitches
Ervin Santana 15.4%
Edwin Jackson 16.9%
Yu Darvish 17.3%
Josh Johnson 18.7%
Derek Lowe 19.4%
Max Scherzer 19.7%
Jake Westbrook 19.7%
Rick Porcello 19.7%
Homer Bailey 20.0%
Gavin Floyd 20.1%


This is quite the quandary for Darvish. He has to work both sides of the plate, lest he become too predictable, but the fastballs and especially sliders and cutters that he throws to the glove side lead to hitter-friendly calls and lots of walks. Getting more love on the glove side would go a long way toward Yu living up to the hype.


Yu Still Getting Squeezed at the Knees

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

PitcherCalled strike rate on in-zone pitches taken
Yu Darvish 71.3%
Henderson Alvarez 71.8%
Jake Arrieta 72.0%
Wei-Yin Chen 72.8%
Derek Holland 73.2%
Clayton Kershaw 73.2%
Justin Masterson 73.6%
Ricky Romero 73.8%
Brian Matusz 74.0%
Chris Capuano 74.6%


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 by the hitter, 2012

 Average called strike rate for starting pitchers on in-zone pitches taken by the hitter, 2012 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 locationCalled strike rate on in-zone pitches takenMLB Avg. for SP
High 67.3 74.3
Middle 96.4 95.3
Low 56.1 68.6


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

PitchCalled Strike Rate on in-zone pitches takenMLB Avg. for SP
Fastball 71.4 80.3
Slider 66 79.3
Cutter 65.4 79.4
Curveball 84.2 81.6
Splitter 88.9 83.2


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.


Yu's Unhittable Breaking Stuff

So far, the $111 million investment that the Texas Rangers made in Yu Darvish looks like money well spent. Darvish is tied for the American League lead in wins (six) while also leading AL starters in strikeout percentage (25.8 percent of batters faced) and placing third in ERA+ (168). The former Sawamura Award winner is known for his Mariana Trench-deep repertoire, but his breaking stuff has been especially nasty as he pitches himself into Cy Young contention for the first-place Rangers.

Darvish features a power slider (thrown slightly less than 20 percent of the time) that typically sits in the low-80s, as well as a curveball (thrown about 12 percent) that averages about 73 mph but has gone as low as 62 mph on the gun. Aside from the big difference in velocity, part of what makes Darvish's slider/curve combo so deadly is that the pitches show nearly identical horizontal break but drastically different vertical break.

Both his slider (light blue on the graph below) and curveball (dark blue) move away from right-handed hitters about eight inches. But the curveball drops a half-foot more than the slider:

Velocity and pitch break on Darvish's slider (light blue) and curveball (dark blue)

With Darvish's slider and curve breaking in on hitters about the same amount but showing major differences in velocity and vertical break, his breaking stuff has been among the most effective in the game. Darvish ranks fourth among AL starters in miss rate with his breaking pitches...

Highest Miss Percentage with Curveballs and Sliders among AL Starters

PitcherMiss Pct.
Drew Smyly 46.6%
CC Sabathia 44.6%
Max Scherzer 42.5%
Yu Darvish 42.3%
Daniel Bard 40.6%
Jered Weaver 40.3%
Ervin Santana 39.2%
Colby Lewis 36.2%
Ivan Nova 35.2%
Jason Hammel 34.9%
AL Avg. 30.6%


...and he also ranks fourth in opponent slugging percentage with his slider and curve...

Lowest Opponent Slugging Percentage with Breaking Stuff among AL Starters

PitcherSlug Pct.
Justin Verlander .130
Jason Hammel .154
Brandon Morrow .197
Yu Darvish .197
Luke Hochevar .200
Henderson Alvarez .209
Daniel Bard .235
Brandon McCarthy .237
Ubaldo Jimenez .286
Kevin Millwood .310
AL Avg. .372