This Is The Yu Darvish The Rangers Paid For—Don’t Forget It

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It wasn’t Rangers’ righty Yu Darvish’s performance that was the most impressive thing in his 8 1/3 spectacular innings against the Yankees last night.

On paper and in practice, he looked great. Allowing 7 hits, 2 walks, striking out 10 and allowing no runs are all well and good, but it was the way he pounded the strike zone (119 pitches and 82 strikes) and displayed the presence and swagger of a star that provided a glimpse into his future.

Star power.

You either have it or you don’t.

The desire to be the center of attention in a big moment.

You either have it or you don’t.

Ability.

You either have it or you don’t.

Darvish has it.

All of it.

In spite of winning two of his first three starts, he’d done so in a shaky manner. His results echoed Barry Zito’s with control problems, wriggling in and out of trouble and always appearing to be on the verge of giving up 5 runs. He accumulated high pitch counts early in games; the Rangers’ bullpen was constantly on alert; he was nursed through and pulled before the games blew up from his walks.

In a game ripe for a meltdown with excuses at the ready (it’s the Yankees; he’s new to the league and North America; he’s getting used to the larger ball) Darvish displayed the stuff, composure and confidence that make him a top-of-the-rotation talent.

There are statistical suggestions that success in the post-season is a random occurrence; that the pitchers who’ve made a name for themselves in big games—John Smoltz, Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling, Dave Stewart, Orel Hershiser—were creatures of circumstance.

It’s nonsense.

Mentally handling pressure is just as important as ability in a big game.

Often, they’re wars of attrition.

Technically, for Darvish and the Rangers, last night’s game against the Yankees was a relatively meaningless start in April. But it wasn’t. Because it was Darvish vs Hiroki Kuroda and Darvish had pitched so inconsistently in his first three starts, the spotlight was on to see how he’d handle the Yankees’ bats and facing his countryman in front of millions of fans in Japan and across the world.

He didn’t survive the test. He embraced it as if to say, “This is my domain. Everyone’s watching and I’m giving them what they came to see. You wanna see something? Here it is.”

There are pitchers you trust in a big game. Darvish is one of those pitchers. He’s got that presence and the goods to back it up. He wants you and everyone else to know it.

Last night was just the beginning.

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The Yu Darvish Free Agency Profile

All Star Game, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Politics, Prospects, Stats

Name: Yu Darvish


Position: Right handed pitcher.

Vital Statistics: Age-25; Height-6’5″; Weight-185.

Agents: Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group and Don Nomura.

Chances of coming to North America in 2012: He might want to wait another year so the bigger money clubs like the Red Sox and Mets will definitely be involved. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s coming for 2012.

Teams that could use and pay him: Boston Red Sox; New York Yankees; Toronto Blue Jays; Baltimore Orioles; Detroit Tigers; Minnesota Twins; Kansas City Royals; Texas Rangers; Los Angeles Angels; Seattle Mariners; New York Mets; Washington Nationals; Florida Marlins; Milwaukee Brewers; St. Louis Cardinals; Chicago Cubs; San Francisco Giants; Los Angeles Dodgers.

Positives:

I went into detail—with pictures, comparisons, video and projections—on Darvish here.

He has a gregarious personality; an interesting heritage and history; and massive talent that will transfer well to the North American market.

His stuff is vicious; he doesn’t appear to have had his arm abused as Daisuke Matsuzaka did as a youth; he’s fearless and unafraid to buzz hitters—this will be imperative in the big leagues.

Darvish has a wide array of pitches including two blazing, moving fastballs, a slider, an Adam Wainwright curve and a forkball.

Negatives:

Japanese imports are always a gamble and teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have been torched by diving too enthusiastically into the market without realizing what they were getting.

The pressure and expectations on Darvish might be muted because of the prior failures of the likes of Hideki Irabu and Matsuzaka, but he’s still going to cost at least $100 million to $120 million in posting fees and for his contract. That’s a lot of money.

The market is relatively weak this season, but pitchers like C.J. Wilson and Edwin Jackson aren’t going to cost as much as Darvish and they’re proven MLB pitchers.

Darvish is raw and wild—on and off the field—but that could be seen as both a positive or negative. I take it as a good thing. Within reason.

What he’ll want: The posting fee for Matsuzaka was $51.1 million; it’s a blind bidding process, so the teams will have to calculate how much it’ll cost to sign Darvish.

Contractually he’ll want $75 million in guaranteed money over 5-years and the team that wins the bid will have to sign him.

What he’ll get: The posting will be around $55 million; the contract 5-years, $68 million.

Teams that might give it to him: Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Dodgers, Angels, Mariners, Blue Jays, Cubs, Tigers.

If you think for one second that the Yankees aren’t interested in Darvish and aren’t preparing a massive posting bid for him, you need to stop reading this and go enjoy the work of Joel Sherman.

The Yankees aren’t interested in Darvish…just like they were only moderately interested in Mark Teixeira.

They’re going after Darvish. Hard.

Ichiro Suzuki‘s career is winding down with the Mariners and they’ll want a talented replacement for the Ichiro fanbase. They’re building their club with pitching in mind and Darvish would slide in right behind Felix Hernandez for a devastating and young 1-2 punch.

Theo Epstein was torched by the Matsuzaka signing, but the Cubs have money to spend and he might want to make a big splash upon taking over in Chicago.

Would I spend the posting money and sign Darvish if I were a GM? I’d put my job on the line to get him.

Will it be a “bad” signing for the club that does pay him? No. Darvish is the real deal and is going to be an All Star and Cy Young Award contender. He’s a megastar in waiting.

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Get Yu Darvish

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I had prepared to write about how pitchers from Japan have a small margin for error and terrible history, especially when the hype-machine is so stifling that no one could possibly succeed. That history with the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Irabu should make clubs reticent about the astronomical posting bids for the right to even negotiate with them. In addition to that, the number of pitchers who arrived without the media exposure and did well—Hideo Nomo, Hideki Okajima—should give greater pause before going all in with cash and expectations.

Part of my argument was intended to be centered around the same teams that passed on Aroldis Chapman being after the latest hot commodity, Yu Darvish.

I still don’t know how Chapman wound up with the Reds and not the Yankees or Red Sox—he was the real deal before he signed and is the real deal now.

But after looking at video clips of Darvish, he’s going to be a dominating pitcher in the big leagues.

His motion combines the height and ball-hooking quirkiness of Rick Sutcliffe; the deception and charisma of Tim Lincecum; and the leg drive and finish of David Cone.

Watching Darvish in the video below, you see the similarities to Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe was 6’7″, had a set of mechanics that no pitching coach in his right mind would teach, but were actually technically perfect in terms of balance and usage of both arms and intimidating size. The hooking of the wrist toward the forearm is said to be bad for the elbow, but that’s the way he threw; sometimes it does more damage to alter a natural motion that it would be to try and fix it; in some cases, it’s the oddity that makes them effective.

Darvish turns his back to the hitter similarly to Lincecum, he collapses he back leg to load up for the drive to the plate, and uses a leverage-based torque to generate power. The difference being he’s doing it at 6’5″ while Lincecum is (supposedly) 5’11”.

Cone was listed at 6’1″; was actually around 5’11” and threw everything at the hitter from a variety of arm angles; Darvish is said to throw a wide array of pitches including the conventional 4-seam and 2-seam fastballs; a wicked off-speed curve; a forkball; and a slider.

Here’s Cone as he’s just about to release:

And here’s Darvish:

I would totally ignore the results against against Japanese hitters—that’s a mistake that’s repeatedly made in trying to translate the success from Japan to North America. It’s happened not only with the above-mentioned pitchers who didn’t work out as hoped, but with hitters like Tsuyoshi Nishioka who was played up as a batting champion when he signed with the Twins and was a disaster.

With his unique heritage of an Iranian father and Japanese mother; a clear love of the spotlight; and the goods to back it up, Darvish is going to come to the big leagues and be a sensation.

The teams that miss out on him due to being gun-shy after prior errors are going to regret it. He’ll be a devastating force as a big league pitcher.

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