Dodgers: Examining Yu Darvish After Three Starts

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 16: Yu Darvish (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 16: Yu Darvish (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

Yu Darvish came to the Dodgers in a last second deal a little over two weeks ago. Since then critics have wondered whether he was worth the prospect package sacrificed for his arm.

It’s no secret that Yu Darvish is one of the best arms in all of baseball. He has consistently led the league in strikeout rates, despite having an elevated era at times. With all of this in mind, it’s not surprising to have seen the Dodgers’ front office go all in on him. But lately, there are rumblings around baseball that the team may have unnecessarily sacrificed some pretty decent prospects. Many believe Darvish to be an overrated power arm that gives up far too many runs to be an elite ace. So what has he done for Los Angeles?

Well, in short, it’s been difficult to tell. In Darvish’s first start, he struck out 10 through 7 innings and did not allow a run. In his second start against the Mets, he only got through five innings of work. But in those five innings, he once again struck out 10 and did not allow a run. Darvish would throw 106 pitches in that game.

And on Wednesday against the lowly White Sox, Darvish labored through 6 innings, departing in the seventh as a precaution for a tightening back. In that game, he only struck out two and gave up three solo home runs. This was the first time in Darvish’s career that he did not strike out a batter until the 5th inning.

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So what’s changed since his arrival to the Dodgers? Well not much. Historically, Darvish throws a lot of pitches in games. He works counts and tries to hit the corners often resulting in long at bats. That’s why you’ll often see him depart after six innings of work because his pitch count is consistently up over 90 after that point.

And 2017 has just been sort of a down season for Darvish. His earned run average for the year is 3.83 which isn’t bad, but there are some who believe that shouldn’t justify a prospect package for a rental piece. And that’s important to keep in mind when considering if this was a good trade or not, the fact that he may not be around after this season.

But for now, statistically, he actually is pitching very well for the Dodgers. He has an earned run average of 2.50 over his three starts with the team. He has averaged six innings per start, and over seven strikeouts per start as well. That’s a huge improvement from the five starts he had before the trade. In those starts, Darvish had a +7 era and was giving up runs at a rate he’s never experienced in his career. Most point to those five starts as reason enough for the team to not take a risk on him. But at least in his first three starts, he’s doing what the Dodgers asked him to do and giving them quality innings.

As for me, I still think this is one of the best moves the front office has made over the past couple of years. Even if people view him as overrated, Darvish is a top of the rotation type of arm. He might be having a down season, but there is way too much upside to not take a chance on him. And I don’t actually believe there was much of a risk in trading away the prospects that they did. The top piece was Willie Calhoun. It’s no secret that Calhoun was not going to fit into the Dodgers’ roster, as a big bat that can’t field a ball to save his life. And the other prospects were lower level guys, a former 11th round pick, and a former 5th round pick.

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The truth of the matter is that the Dodgers feel this is their year. They’re 51 games over the .500 mark and don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Darvish was far and away the best option to shore up a rotation that was looking to need some help down the stretch. The team will take it easy on him, up almost 20 games in their division. He’ll always be taken out of games earlier than he might like because they need him big time come October. He may not have the best playoff record, but Darvish will be vital to a World Series run.