The Yu Darvish that dominated Japan for years and impressed the Texas Rangers enough to invest $51.7 million in a posting bid and another $56 million guaranteed for six years is the guy who has shut down the New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays the past two starts.
Sure, we saw flashes of it in spring training and in his first three starts, but scouts and team officials expected Darvish would find a way to put it all together consistently. It appears he has figured that out.
He's getting ahead of hitters -- he threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 27 batters he faced. He's mixing up pitches and speeds and his breaking stuff has incredible movement. He made many of the Blue Jays hitters look silly on sliders (Nolan Ryan says it's Darvish's best pitch), cutters and curveballs Monday, going seven innings and allowing one run on four hits with nine strikeouts and two walks.
In his past two outings, Darvish pitched deep into the game (15 1/3 innings total) and struck out 19 with just four walks. He has done that and still managed to stay efficient. That's the guy the Rangers saw in Japan. He made one mistake Monday, hanging a slider to Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto's top hitter right now. That accounted for the lone run.
Consider that after Darvish allowed five runs in the first two innings of his big league career, he has given up just three earned runs in the 31 innings after that for a 0.87 ERA. Wow.
Like any pitcher, Darvish will have some struggles here and there. But he had a long track record in Japan and looks a lot like that guy right now in the big leagues. There's no reason that can't continue. If you ask me, his best attribute is that he doesn't get rattled. He might walk a batter or hit somebody and get himself into trouble (like he did early Monday), but he calmly goes about his business. Darvish has shown a penchant for getting out of jams, especially in his last two starts.
Darvish is 4-0 through April. With the Rangers' offense behind him, there's no reason to think Darvish can't push toward 16 wins or better. And he has got to be one of the favorites for AL Rookie of the Year now, too.
How many games do you think Darvish wins? Is the Darvish we've seen the past two games the one that we'll see for most of the season?