Dodgers: Talking About Yu Darvish’s 2017 Season

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LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Yu Darvish
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Yu Darvish /
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A memorable, albeit uneven, year concludes for Yu Darvish and the Dodgers with two World Series starts to forget. Now right-handed ace Yu Darvish looks toward free agency for possibly the last time in his prime.

It’s all quiet on the Yu Darvish front. There appears to be no urgency on Darvish’s side to rush the free agency process. He probably just wants to take time to himself and reflect on a fun-filled 2017 with the Dodgers.

Maybe not. He seems content just to let the market develop and wait until the time is right. When that time comes, he’ll accept the hundreds of millions of guaranteed dollars that shall be bequeathed to him. There’s no arguing with the fact that 2018 will behold great gifts for the elite right-handed ace. This is the time to be with friends and family toasting the coming year and bidding farewell to the past.

And what a year it was! Good or bad, 2017 was one for the history books. Although, I’m sure some or most of us agree that we’re glad to turn the calendar to a new page. It was also a topsy-turvy year for the hard hurling Darvish, to put it lightly.

Darvish has been available to sign with any MLB club since November 6th at 2 pm Pacific time when all free agents became able. Five days before that, he was simultaneously thanking and apologizing to Dodgers fans, while citing his own personal “lack of performance” as the reason LA lost the World Series.

In the spirit of Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s turn of the millennium film noir, Memeto, let’s review Yu’s season in LA. In reverse order!

Darvish pitched only an inning and two thirds in Game 7 of the World Series, striking out none and giving up five runs, four earned. That’s not the way anyone wants to go out. He knew he was expected to pitch like a stopper and he didn’t execute.

In fact, he didn’t execute at all in the series against Houston’s formidable Astros. Darvish was initially rocked by Houston in Game 3 with strikingly similar statistical results to Game 7. He surrendered four runs, all earned, in another inning and two-thirds of work. Sadly, that game will not only be remembered for Darvish’s performance; it will also be remembered for immature and ignorant face-making by Yuli Gurriel of the Astros. Don’t cry for Yu, though. The Class Act that Darvish is, he responded with a hopeful tweet.

https://twitter.com/faridyu/status/924146590893436928/photo/1

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As bad as his final two starts were, Yu’s first two of the playoffs were just as good. In them, he threw a combined 11 1/3 innings of two-run ball with14 strikeouts. Darvish defeated both Arizona and Chicago on the road to start 2-0 as a Dodger in the playoffs.

Going into the playoffs, Yu looked strong. He was coming off three consecutive excellent starts. They were against three of the worst teams in baseball, though. He pitched to San Francisco, Philadelphia, and San Diego months after they’d raised their white flags. Also, Darvish’s win against the Giants on September 13th was his first since August 10th, a span that included three losses.

Volatility defined Yu Darvish’s tenure as a member of the Dodgers. Previous to his four games winless streak, Darvish had burst onto the scene with two straight near dominating wins on the road. Especially encouraging was his Dodgers debut in New York where he blanked the Mets over seven innings and racked up 10 K’s. That’s what Dodgers fans wanted and expected every outing.

When LA acquired Yu Darvish at the July 31st non-waiver deadline, I doubt they invested in the fact he could sustain that level of production. He wasn’t expected to be another Clayton Kershaw.

The Dodgers got what they expected from Darvish: an elite talent with loads of class. He’s an ace on some major league teams, who’s a number 2 starter at best on #ThisTeam. Though dominant some days and dreadful others, he pitches well on the road and has shown his mettle in big games. He failed, however, on the biggest stage. Twice. And the wounds are still fresh.

Overall, Yu Darvish grades a solid B. I’d like to see the Dodgers retain him on a short-term contract in exchange for a higher average annual salary. Something like two or three years at $30 million per with yearly opt-outs. Darvish is a great fit with the city of Los Angeles, the Dodgers clubhouse, and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt’s methods.

Next: Dave Roberts Season Grade

I absolutely see a spot in the rotation for Yu, too. Though much ado has been made of the Dodgers starting pitching depth next year, the rotation is bottom heavy. With Darvish behind Kershaw, then Rich Hill, Alex Wood, and Kenta Maeda filling out the Dodgers starting five, it would be outstanding on paper. The 57 other starters without options swing to long relief until needed. Well, that was my pitch to the Dodgers and Darvish to keep the family together. Now it’s just up to Yu.

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