Texas Rangers

Numbers show Darvish is great, but why is he so polarizing?

The lone Texas Rangers representative at the All-Star Game on Tuesday is Yu Darvish, a tactical choice by Major League Baseball with smaller rosters that emphasize pitching.

Of course, Darvish won’t be pitching, at the request of the club after having started Sunday, but he’s in Miami.

And there’s also this about his selection: He’s one of the best pitchers in the American League. He’s one of the best in the game.

Groans and eye-rolls likely accompanied those statements within the Rangers fan base — from some to many — who don’t see Darvish as the elite pitcher he was advertised as when he arrived from Japan.

Come on, they argue, the Rangers invested $112 million in Darvish, and he’s 6-8 this season and the Rangers have lost eight of his past nine starts. He has only two complete games in his MLB career.

He’s not an ace, they argue, and not worthy of a long-term contract extension. With the July 31 trade deadline approaching, Darvish needs to be dealt for prospects.

There’s no shortage of frustration. There’s even anger toward the most polarizing player on the Rangers’ roster, and, arguably, the most polarizing Metroplex athlete now that Tony Romo is retired and in a broadcast booth.

At the root of the angst are expectations. Those huffing and puffing believe he hasn’t come close to them. The Rangers and statistics, though, say that he has.

“When you expect everybody to be Clayton Kershaw and you compare everybody to all-time greats and first-ballot Hall of Famers, you’re going to be disappointed,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “When you look at the universe of pitchers and what he’s done, Yu’s been very good for us.”

The rub most have against Darvish is his lack of pitch efficiency. His apparent love of the strikeout since 2012 — 937, two behind Nolan Ryan for fourth in club history — has pushed his pitch counts higher when he should just be simply getting opponents to put the ball in play.

Since 2012, among pitchers with 600 innings, Darvish’s 16.3 pitches per inning ranks 65th in the majors and 24th in the AL. Kershaw (14.4) leads the majors, and AL aces Corey Kluber (15.1) and Felix Hernandez (15.1) are eighth and ninth.

Darvish falls to 83rd in the majors and 30th in the AL in pitches per batter (3.94). That’s the same territory as Chris Sale (68th, 3.87), Jake Arrieta (3.93, 81st), Chris Archer (3.95, 87th) and Max Scherzer (3.98) — all strikeout specialists like Darvish.

He leads the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (11.03), Scherzer (10.85) is second, Sale (10.32) is fourth, Kershaw (10.19) is fifth, Kluber is sixth (9.72), Archer (9.54) is seventh and Arrieta (8.89) is 12th.

Included in that group are six Cy Young Award winners since 2012. Sale and Scherzer are starting Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic.

Strikeouts are facist, as Crash Davis said, but the game’s top pitchers strike out a lot of batters.

Darvish is a top pitcher.

Oh, but what about all those starts when he throws 100 pitches in five innings and puts an unwanted burden on the bullpen? Darvish has three of those in 19 starts this season.

Daniels said that’s about as bad as a Darvish start gets.

“It’s going to happen,” he said. “Then he goes into Yankee Stadium and gives up two hits in seven innings and on a normal night would have finished it if not for the [triceps] tightness issue.”

Injuries have derailed Darvish. He underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2015 and the first two months of last season. He then made a quick return to the DL with shoulder soreness associated with the recovery.

Before the elbow injury was first detected in August 2014, Darvish was coming off a runner-up finish to Scherzer in 2013 Cy Young balloting. Darvish posted a 2.83 ERA and league bests in strikeouts (277), hits per nine innings (6.2) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.9).

He posted a 3.06 ERA in 22 starts in 2014 before being shut down. He said his injury has left the answer to whether he has met expectations incomplete.

“I think I could answer it better if I didn’t have the two years missed from Tommy John,” Darvish said.

It’s well-documented that pitchers might struggle coming back from Tommy John. Their command isn’t as sharp, and oftentimes they initially work on strict pitch counts.

Despite that, Darvish’s numbers put him among the game’s and league’s best.

His 3.45 ERA in the 36 starts since he returned ranks 18th in the majors and ninth in the AL. His 257 strikeouts (8th/5th), .215 opponents average (5th/2nd) and 1.17 walks/hits per innings pitched (16th/9th) are tops among starters.

“He’s been our ace,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “Every time he takes the mound, we feel pretty good about ourselves and our chance to win the ballgame. There is no doubt he has done what we have expected and probably more.”

The numbers don’t lie. They really don’t even mislead, as statistics can do.

Darvish is a great pitcher, despite all the bellyaching that makes him the most polarizing player on the Rangers’ roster and, arguably, among all DFW athletes.

“There’s no denying he’s really good,” Daniels said. “Whether you want to grade it on a curve is up to the observer, but he’s really good relative to anyway you want to look at it.”

 

All-Star Game

7 p.m. Tuesday, KDFW/4

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