Editor's Note: This is part of a series of entries about elements of the game that the Texas Rangers hope to improve upon heading into 2013. And since it's now 2013, we call them our Rangers Resolutions.
Today's resolution: Prove that Yu Darvish is an ace
This time last year, the Rangers were finishing up a visit with Yu Darvish, his father and representatives in Arlington. They were in the middle of a 30-day window to sign Darvish to a contract and they treated the trip as a recruiting visit. There was excitement among the Rangers' personnel because the club's scouts and front office fully believed they were attempting to sign a future ace.
There weren't many folks that expected to see signs of that right away. And those signs weren't there early. Darvish struggled in his debut and had trouble with his control, walking too many batters for much of the season. But the baseball world saw Darvish figure things out in his final regular-season starts and in a solid start in the AL wild-card game.
Manager Ron Washington believes it was a start in Boston in August that got things turned around for Darvish. The 26-year-old pitcher had a chat with Washington and the skipper felt like he was beginning to figure things out. The numbers show that to be true:
Before Aug. 6 start (Bos): 11-8, 4.57 ERA in 21 starts, 74 walks (3.5 walks per start), 154 strikeouts (in 134 innings), .238 opponent average
After Aug. 6 start: 5-1, 2.35 ERA in 8 starts, 15 walks (1.8 per start), 67 strikeouts (57 1/3 innings), .176 opponent average
Darvish was very good under the bright lights of the postseason, allowing two earned runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and no walks in a loss to Baltimore in the AL wild-card game.
Darvish pitched like an ace in those final nine starts of 2012. But to really earn the title of "ace," he must do it over the long haul in 2013. He has to show that he can be consistent over an entire season. It was a huge step to pitch his best in meaningful games down the stretch. A bigger step will be becoming a true stopper -- the guy that teammates know will win a game nearly every time he gets the ball.
That's one of the Ranger Resolutions this year: For Darvish to prove he's an ace. It sets up the entire rotation, with Matt Harrison and Derek Holland following his lead. If Darvish proves he's the pitcher the Rangers think he is, he can lead this staff into the future. It's a young group that should only get better. Darvish is the guy at the top of that staff. It's time to show he can pitch like it for an entire season.