Mac Engel

Postseason exposes all of Yu Darvish

Los Angeles Dodgers' Yu Darvish watches from the dugout during Game 7 of the World Series. Darvish took two of the Dodgers’ four losses, including an epic batting practice session he threw in Game 7.
Los Angeles Dodgers' Yu Darvish watches from the dugout during Game 7 of the World Series. Darvish took two of the Dodgers’ four losses, including an epic batting practice session he threw in Game 7. AP

In landing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Yu Darvish revealed where he needs to be, in the third spot in the rotation.

Despite ace stuff and a powerful fastball, Yu Darvish is not a No. 1 on a World Series team. He’s not a No. 2, either. For a World Series team, Yu is a No. 3.

He’s a No. 1 on an average team.

Yu remains the poster child of the flaw in analytics: The math doesn’t add up, because there is no equation to determine how a man manages fear. In a word, Yu is no different than the rest of us — he’s scared.

The National League playoffs and World Series exposed the former Texas Rangers “ace” as a guy who is a high-caliber big-league pitcher who does not want the burden being a No. 1. It’s not for everybody, because it’s too hard.

The 2017 Game 7 of the World Series exposed a player in way that seldom happens: 1  2/3 innings pitched, three hits, five runs, four earned, one walk, no strikeouts.

Yu’s performance in the World Series against the Houston Astros bordered on cowardly. Seldom do you see a guy so good turn into a caterpillar.

In his NLDS and NLCS starts, Darvish was 2-0. He combined to throw 11 1/3 innings where he allowed eight hits, two runs with 14 strikeouts. He started Game 3 in both series.

There was all of this talk that Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt had corrected a flaw in Yu’s mechanics. Unless the coach is Dave Duncan, or perhaps Mike Maddux, always be skeptical if you read/hear a story about a pitching coach “fixing” a pitcher.

In the World Series, Darvish was 0-2 with a 21.60 ERA. In two starts, he allowed nine runs, eight earned, on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings with — and I can’t believe this — zero strikeouts.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts should never have gone with Darvish for Game 7. I thought this before Clayton Kershaw threw four scoreless innings in relief on Wednesday evening; the four other Dodgers pitchers who pitched in Game 7 did not allow a run. Darvish was simply out of his element.

After Game 7, a down Darvish summoned the courage to admit that he had lost his “passion” with the Rangers but found it with the Dodgers, and wants to return.

Of course he does. When I was in L.A. to do a story on Darvish after the Rangers traded him to L.A., I quickly discovered he was in his element. The weather. The money. The beach. Southern California. The National League. He can bat. The massive payroll. Who would want to leave the Dodgers right now?

Now he goes into free agency as the best available starting pitcher on the market.

If the Texas Rangers make any attempt to re-sign him, even if it’s for free, GM Jon Daniels should be fired on the spot. But Yu is not coming back, because he never was.

How much money Darvish cost himself with his memorable World Series performance we will never know; he’s 30, and he’s a quality pitcher in a league where that is still regarded as the top commodity. He’s going to get paid. There is always some dumb, desperate owner who will overspend.

Moments like these can shred a man. Good players who bomb in the postseason often never return. It would not be a total surprise if in four years Yu returns to Japan, although by that point he will have made so much money it won’t matter.

Whatever team signs him, however, has to know that, in this instance, the money will not change the man. More money won’t make Yu Darvish a No. 1 on a good team.

The 2017 playoffs exposed all of Yu Darvish, from the good to the Game 7 bad.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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