The Dodgers have been in a funk for the past two weeks, and arguably no player has more question marks right now than Yu Darvish. With the playoffs only a few weeks away, should the Dodgers consider replacing Darvish in the playoff rotation?
When the Dodgers acquired Darvish in a buzzer beating trade, they expected he would anchor the top half of the rotation and give the Dodgers two aces for their four man playoff rotation. With management wanting to stay away from using Kershaw on short rest in the first round, they thought Darvish would all but seal that Kershaw would only have to make one or two starts on regular rest in the first round. This hasn’t quite panned out, in fact, you can make the case that no starting pitcher is pitching worse than Yu Darvish right now.
For the entire season, Darvish is 8-11 with a 4.09 ERA which looks a bit inflated since he only allows a .237 batting average overall. However, since coming to LA, these numbers have gotten way worse. Darvish has a 4.50 ERA as a member of the Dodgers and has allowed opposing hitters to hit .291 off him. His 1.54 WHIP is also not very encouraging.
Rick Honeycutt has been working with Darvish on correcting his mechanics, so hopefully, they can work out the kinks and return Darvish to the upper echelon of pitchers.
Taking a deeper look at the numbers, Darvish’s peripheral stats mirror his 2016.
2016: 11 K/9 IP, .290 BABIP, 40.4 ground ball out percentage, 1.08 HR/9 IP
2017: 10 K/9 IP, .290 BABIP, 40.7 ground ball out percentage, 1.44 HR/9 IP
This shows that there is some hope for Darvish going forward if he can find his release point and consistent mechanics. His stuff is still downright filthy, he is just walking a tad more hitters, and the balls are finding places to drop.
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If Darvish continues to struggle the next few weeks, the Dodgers should pull him from the playoff rotation. The pitcher that should replace him is Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu is having a very good but quiet bounce back season from his labrum injury. On the season so far Ryu has a 3.59 ERA and hitters are hitting .258 off him, which is pretty good for a pitch to contact pitcher. With 109 strikeouts and only 42 walks, Ryu has a strikeout to walk ratio that is better than two to one. He also has done well for the Dodgers in the postseason, albeit only three starts. In his three playoff starts Ryu has a 2.81 ERA and hitters only hit .233 off of him in the playoffs.
Ryu was working through things himself in the first half, but in the second half of the season he has really turned things up a notch. Before the All-Star break Ryu had a 4.21 ERA, and since the break, he has a 2.60 ERA. Opposing hitters hit .279 against him in the first half but are only hitting .222 off him in the second half.
I’ve seen some Dodger fans say he could be used as the elusive lefty reliever in the playoffs but Ryu has some reverse splits. Lefties have hit .325 against Ryu, with right-handed batters only hitting .234. If anyone is built to be a reliever for the playoffs, it would be Darvish who would probably hit 100 miles per hour pitching an inning or two, and he has a variety of pitches that would give hitters fits in short outings.
In all likelihood, barring an injury, Darvish will be a part of the playoff rotation. After dealing away top prospect Willie Calhoun for him, it would be a very bad look if the Dodgers got rid of him for a pitcher that doesn’t even crack the playoff rotation. Darvish has had a lot of success in the majors and given his stuff; there is no doubt he is capable of returning to his form of an elite pitcher. While Hyun-Jin Ryu deserves a spot in the playoff rotation more than Yu Darvish at the moment, we’ll have to see how the final few weeks pan out. The Dodgers will pencil in Darvish to the playoff rotation as long as he is healthy and able to pitch.