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Saturday, January 21, 2012
Keith Law: Yu Darvish no-brainer for Texas

By Richard Durrett

ESPN.com's Keith Law blogged this week about the club's signing of Yu Darvish and said it made perfect sense for the Rangers to make sure they got the deal done (it made sense for Darvish, too, who has nothing left to prove in Japanese baseball). Part of Law's blog:
At 6-foot-5, Darvish is taller than most Japanese pitchers who've come over to the United States, and has dominated Japanese competition to a far greater extent than Hideo Nomo or Daisuke Matsuzaka did; Darvish's worst ERA over the last five years (1.88) is lower than the best ERA ever posted in Japan by Nomo, Matsuzaka, Kenshin Kawakami, Hideki Irabu, Koji Uehara (as a starter) or Kaz Ishii. And Darvish's second-worst ERA over those five years puts him below the best seasons by Hiroki Kuroda or Hisashi Iwakuma. He punched out 272 in 232 innings in Japan last season while walking just 30 unintentionally, career-best rates in both categories.

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Yu Darvish is already earning comparisons to Dirk in just a matter of days. Both are locked in, love to study and practice their game for the better of their careers and those around them.

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Darvish generates good arm speed through hip rotation, and despite slightly late pronation, his arm works reasonably cleanly and he repeats the delivery well. Darvish will show the usual assortment of pitches, led by a 91-95 mph fastball that's been reported up to 97 this year, mixing it with a hard shuuto that looks like a two-seamer in the low 90s or upper 80s, a hard slider/cutter, a softer slider, a splitter, a straight changeup and a slow curveball.

That's far more pitches than a typical MLB starter would use and probably too many for Darvish once he's here. He could strip down to the fastball, shuuto, one slider and a changeup or splitter, and be more effective because he's junked his worst offerings. The one concern I'd have on Darvish is workload -- he's been worked hard in Japan, and very few NPB refugees have held their value for more than two seasons after crossing to MLB. But Darvish's ace potential makes him worth the risk, even at a cost of nearly $20 million per year when you factor in the posting fee. The Rangers came into this offseason with two obvious areas in which they could upgrade -- first base and the top of their rotation. They've now addressed the latter need.

Adding an ace to that rotation also allows the Rangers to return one of their back-end starters to the bullpen, or to mix and match those pitchers to manage their workloads. Alexi Ogando seemed to wear down in his first full season in the rotation, while Neftali Feliz is making that switch this year and probably will face the same fatigue issues in the second half if he's not handled carefully. Matt Harrison more than doubled his workload from 2010, when he held multiple roles, and fought an injury in what was the first time he'd crossed 100 innings since 2008. Even in the best-case scenario, where all six pitchers (including rotation locks Colby Lewis and Derek Holland) are healthy all year, the Rangers should have the flexibility to keep everyone fresh into September and, potentially, October as well.