A look back at the Yu Darvish years

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, August 25th, 2017

Yu Darvish
BY DIC HUMPHREY
DIC.HUMPHREY@YAHOO.COM

ARLINGTON, Texas – Yu Darvish is gone. His tenure with the
Rangers ended at a little less than six years when he was traded to
the Los Angeles Dodgers just minutes prior to the July 31 non-waiver
trade deadline. The Rangers have indicated they will pursue Darvish
in free agency after this season. Darvish welcomed the interest
saying he would be interested in returning. The probability though is
that Darvish is gone for good. History indicates that players of
Darvish’s stature that get traded in deadline deals don’t return in
free agency.
So the question is how will history view his time in Texas?
The Rangers signed Darvish after the 2011 season. They were
coming off two World Series appearances. They surprisingly reached
the World Series in 2010 helped greatly by a true top of the rotation
starter in Cliff Lee, acquired in a mid-season trade. Lee pitched
three EXTREMELY meaningful playoff games for Texas to get them to the
series.
Lee chose Philadelphia over Texas in 2011 as a free agent, which
in retrospect was a bonanza for the Rangers. Lee’s career at that
point was on a downhill slope, so the Rangers would not have gotten
the pitcher they wanted if he had stayed. Even better, they chose to
shore up the offense with the money that Lee was offered by signing
Adrian Beltre.
The Rangers thus went to the 2011 World Series as the favorite
and somehow managed to let it slip away after twice being a strike
away from winning the championship.
The 2011 team was an offensive juggernaut. The essential core
of the 2011 team was back for 2012. What was needed was an ace to
head the rotation. Darvish was posted that winter by his Japanese
League team making him available to Major League teams. Bobby
Valentine had successfully managed for years in Japan, and he
pronounced Darvish as one of the top five pitchers on planet earth.
The Rangers won the rights to negotiate with Darvish by offering
the winning posting fee of more than $50 million. They then
negotiated a contract that brought their total investment to more than
$100 million and gave them contractual control for six seasons.
Ranger GM Jon Daniels has said that the 2012 team was the best
Ranger team ever on paper. The Rangers came home in late September
for a seven game home stand. They led Oakland by four games with 10
left to play, but seven of the 10 were against the A’s. They opened
the home stand with a 5-4 win over the A’s. Oakland won the next two,
but the Rangers came back Thursday afternoon to win and gain a split
in the series. They still held a four game lead with six games
remaining.
The weekend was rugged. The Angels won the opener on Friday night,
and Saturday’s game was rained out forcing the first and still the
only day/night doubleheader in Ranger home history. The pesky Angels
won the Sunday day game, but the Rangers took an 8-7 win Sunday night.
Darvish had been scheduled to pitch the Tuesday game against Oakland,
but was scratched with a stiff neck. He had a bullpen throwing
session later in the week and was pronounced good to go on Sunday. He
pitched the day game and gave up three runs over 6-2/3rds innings.
Texas lost 5-4, though he was not charged with the loss.
That game finished Darvish’s regular season at 16-9 in 29 starts with
a 3.90 ERA. The Rangers were 19-10 in the games he started.
The Rangers then went west for three games against the A’s to
finish the season. Oakland had swept their series over the weekend,
so the Rangers’ lead in the West was down to two games with three to
play, though the Rangers at 93-66 had the best record in the American
League.
Texas lost all three to Oakland to finish the season. The A’s
were West Division champs, and Texas entered the playoffs as the
number one Wild Card team.
Darvish started the Wild Card game at home against Baltimore on
Friday, October 5. He gave up just two earned runs in 6-2/3rds
innings, but the Rangers didn’t provide much support. Baltimore won
5-1, and Darvish was the losing pitcher.
Sadly, the best Ranger team on paper saw the season end before
the league division series even began.
The 16 wins that Darvish posted in his rookie season proved to
be the most he would win for Texas. He won 13 and 10 games over the
next two seasons. He missed the 2015 season altogether after
undergoing Tommy John Surgery. He missed most of the first two months
of the 2016 season finalizing his recovery from the surgery, and won
seven games. This year, he was 6-9 prior to the trade to the Dodgers.
He pitched the opening game of last year’s Division Series with
Toronto. He was knocked around for four home runs, giving up five
earned runs in five innings. Toronto won that game and the next two
to sweep the Rangers out of the playoffs, despite Texas racking up the
best regular season record in the American League.
Darvish thus left Texas with a 52-39 regular season record and 3.42
ERA. He was 0-2 in playoff games.
As for the team, the Rangers were West Division Champions in one
of his five seasons (2016). They were one of the Wild Card playoff
teams in one of his seasons (2012), and they also played an extra game
in 2013 against Tampa Bay with the winner going to the playoffs as a
Wild Card team. They did not make the playoffs in 2014, and are not
likely to make the playoffs this season.
The bottom line is that he was a very good pitcher for Texas.
His strikeout totals are remarkable. He averaged 11 strikeouts per
nine innings pitched. There was always an excitement to watch Darvish
pitch. A no-hitter or even a perfect game almost always seemed like a
possibility with his tremendous fastball and variety of breaking ball
pitches.
He almost got that perfect game in Houston to open the 2013
season. He retired the first 26 batters before giving up a hit.
Interestingly, he did not finish the game. Amazingly, he threw just
two complete games and one shutout in his five Ranger seasons.
All in all, he never lived up to the hype. He was very good for
Texas, but he was never in the class of Clayton Kershaw and Max
Scherzer as the top pitchers in baseball.
The Rangers have been to the post season five times since 2009 –
four times as A.L. West champion and once as a Wild Card. They still have a chance
to get there this season. It’s been a marvelous eight seasons of
baseball, and Darvish has been a significant contributor. The
disappointment is that there are still no World Series Championship
trophies in Arlington.

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