Yu Darvish is an ace.
The stats bear it out, and so does the scouting.
It’s not just the dizzying array of plus pitches in the arsenal.
Or the strikeouts, or the WHIP.
Or the consistency.
It’s all that, plus the 22 wins the last two seasons that lead all American League pitchers (his 301 strikeouts lead baseball in that time).
But it’s something else, too.
This year Darvish has a 6-1 record, and Texas is 7-1 in his starts, and there’s something else underneath the surface of those results that makes him such a beast for this team.
These are the relief pitchers who have worked on days Darvish gets the ball:
Michael Kirkman: 7 games (5.0 innings)
Jason Frasor: 4 games (2.2 innings)
Robbie Ross: 3 games (3.0 innings)
Joe Nathan: 3 games (3.0 innings)
Tanner Scheppers: 2 games (3.0 innings)
Derek Lowe: 1 game (1.2 innings)
Keep in mind these are almost all wins. Wins are when your key relievers typically get their work.
But Nathan, Scheppers, and Ross have each worked in fewer than half of the games Darvish has started.
Kirkman, the Rangers’ least effective pitcher to date, has worked in seven of Darvish’s eight starts, eating up innings. Again, Texas is 7-1 in those games.
The Rangers’ offense gets some credit, of course. Those 7.2 runs of regular support it’s giving Darvish play big. But Darvish keeping the opponent at bay, deep into games, is huge. On average he gets the second out in the seventh inning, and it’s more than that.
Avoiding having to overwork the best relief pitchers on your team, a potential issue when you’re a team that wins lots of baseball games and plans to need to win a bunch of them in October, is something an ace allows you to do.
C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison have been great here since this team became a World Series contender, but they didn’t consistently make that possible. Cliff Lee did, but that was for three months.
Darvish, more often than not, gives the bullpen stars a night off.
And that obviously bodes well for the next day’s game, when the bullpen is relatively rested. Texas started the season winning five games-after-Darvish in a row, before dropping the last two (both Nick Tepesch starts).
The eighth of those is today, as Tepesch goes again. He’ll pitch to Robinson Chirinos, who has never caught any of the Rangers’ current pitchers. The bullpen could be key today. Scheppers and Ross are rested and ready to go. After 19 pitches last night, maybe Nathan will be, too.
Darvish held Houston to three hits and three walks over seven innings last night, punching out eight, and we all view it as an off-night for him.
Still, it was a night when Frasor and Kirkman were tasked with closing the thing out, and had the situation not gotten out of hand in the ninth, that’s how it would have played out, and Nathan would have been able to watch the whole game with Scheppers and Ross behind the left field fence.
Yu Darvish takes the ball every fifth day, and more often than not he doesn’t give it up until the game is fairly well in hand.
That’s what aces do.
Happy Mother’s Day to my wife, and to my mother, and to all of you who qualify.
And to Ikuyo Darvishsefat, who has given us a seriously awesome gift.