By Joey McGraw
YUology is the act of mixing up pitches in away to make hitters look bad, really bad.
Who remembers Yu Darvish’s very first game? Seattle scored four runs on four hits and three walks in a 42-pitch first inning that lasted 10 batters. Even though he started out on a rocky foot the composure he showed complete another 4 2/3 innings and eventually got the win that showed that he had the goods.
One of the early trends that caused headache for the Texas Rangers pitching staff was his varied pitching styles. Traditionally an effective pitcher throws the fastball to set up off speed pitches like the curve, changeup, or whatever is in his pitch selection. Darvish did just the opposite he would throw his off speed stuff to set up his fastball. This caused his pitch count to be really high early in the game. Darvish carried over what made him effective in the Japanese league and tried to apply it to Major Leagues. He was effective but not efficient as he could be. One of the biggest differences that Darvish faced was the time between games started. In Japan he was used to starting once a week, versus starting every fifth day with the Rangers, and also the strike zone is supposedly larger in the Japanese league. Many of these factors point towards having Darvish altering his style because every pitch is at more of a premium.
Moving forward after two full seasons, Yu Darvish is easily one of the top pitchers in the game. Last year he finished runner up for the Cy Young award and had more strikeouts than any other pitcher. He has averaged double digit strikeouts and looks to be continuing that trend this year. One key statistic that seems to get lost with all of his strikeouts is his numbers of walks per game are on a decline. In 2012 he averaged 4.2 walks per game, 2013 3.4 walks per game, 2014 averaging 2.5 walks per game.
One of the keys to Yu Darvish’s success is giving the batter many different looks. If you watch him closely as the game progresses his arm slot never changes. This in return makes the batters he faces a guessing game in which the house or in this case Yu Darvish wins. When the batters have seen Darvish in the first few innings most likely it will be a different pitcher in the later innings. Let me explain. Most pitchers have a fastball, curveball, changeup, and maybe a slider. Darvish has five out pitches which he feels comfortable throwing at any time. 3-0, 3-1 count usually will favor the batters odds because the pitcher needs to get it over and throw something hard due the fear of a walk. Not so for Darvish, that curve ball that a batter saw in the second inning, he will throw that same pitch in the fifth inning but take 5-7 mph off and make the hitter look like an amateur.
The opposing scouting report looks something like this. He can throw the hard fastball with left hander movement, 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, fast curve, slow curve, splitter, slider, cutter, and somewhere at the bottom of the report it says good luck because it’s going to be a long day!