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Monday, April 30, 2012
Yu Darvish is hot and Jose Bautista is not



Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
At 3-0, Yu Darvish has a chance to be the first rookier starting pitcher in 10 years to go 4-0 in April.


(The Toronto Blue Jays host the Texas Rangers, Monday at 7 ET on ESPN.)

The Texas Rangers are still an offensive force, leading the majors in hits, runs, batting average, slugging and total bases.

The Rangers are also fourth in ERA and WHIP, thanks in large part to their bullpen. Texas’ relievers have a 2.05 ERA, struck out 54 and walked four, and opponents are hitting just .197.

As good as the Rangers' bullpen has been, rookie starting pitcher Yu Darvish has been almost as impressive.

Darvish is 3-0 and has an 0.89 ERA in his last three starts. The Rangers have won all four of his starts, and have given him an average of 7.3 runs of support per start.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since 1957 (when the first official rules for rookie status were implemented) only five rookie starting pitchers were 4-0 or better in April: 1968 Jerry Koosman (4-0), 1977 Jerry Garvin (4-0), 1981 Fernando Valenzuela (5-0), 1996 Mike Grace (4-0) and 2002 Kazuhisa Ishii (5-0).

Darvish has six different pitches and has thrown each of them at least 24 times. He throws fewer than half his pitches in the strike zone, and opponents are just 4-for-29 (.138) on pitches out of the zone.

However, Darvish has had some control issues. He's walked 15 batters, which is tied for fourth in MLB, and has walked at least four batters in three of his four starts.

Darvish has not allowed a home run -- only four pitchers have thrown more pitches without allowing a home run this season. In Toronto, he’ll get his first look at Jose Bautista, who has hit 97 home runs since the start of 2010.

Bautista has three HR in 2012, but overall is off to a much slower start than last season.

He’s hitting .190 and slugging .329. Last April, Bautista hit .366 and slugged .780. The good news is that in his breakout season in 2010, Bautista hit .213 and slugged .427 in the first month of the season.

One reason for his down numbers can be attributed to bad luck on balls in play (BABIP). His BABIP is .179, much lower than his .309 average last season.

His line-drive percent is down as well from 18 percent last season to 10 percent in 2012, and his groundball percent is up slightly (37 percent last season to 40 percent in 2012).

Bautista's power is down because he’s hitting fewer balls in the air, and far fewer of those balls are leaving the ballpark or even going for extra-base hits.

Also, don't be surprised if Bautista sees a lot of off-speed pitches from Darvish, who throws fastballs less than 50 percent of the time. Bautista is hitting .167 on off-speed stuff, down more than 100 points from last season (.284 with 15 home runs).