Is Yu Darvish the best pitcher in the AL?
Nobody can touch Darvish right now
None of them is the best pitcher in the AL right now. That title belongs to Yu Darvish.
If you're playing one game with everything on the line, give me Darvish. He's been that dominant to start the season. He has an American League-leading 58 strikeouts and a miniscule 2.33 ERA.
His fastball. His slider. His changeup. His cutter. His curveball that loops to the plate at 61 mph. The 20,000 pitches that Darvish has at his disposal, as manager Ron Washington likes to say.
A GIF circulating this week shows Darvish throwing five different pitches from the exact same arm slot. One local TV reporter had an iPad with him Tuesday and showed the endless loop to Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, who was speechless.
Scoring on Darvish this season takes something out of his control to happen -- such as right fielder Nelson Cruz playing a fly ball into a triple to cost Darvish two runs in the first inning Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox.
Opponents had better get to Darvish early. Hitters are batting .263 in the first inning. After that, forget about it.
Darvish entered his start Tuesday with 16 hits allowed in 32 2/3 innings. That's a hit every other inning. He's allowed a home run -- just one -- this season. He's walked 13 batters. That might offer the best chance to score on him, because opponents aren't stringing together hits against him. And if they're not hitting the ball out of the ballpark, a little help is needed.
Much respect to the pitchers noted above. Sabathia has a World Series ring with the New York Yankees and a Cy Young Award. Price won the Cy Young last season, Verlander the year before and Hernandez the season before that. They've all been doing it longer at a higher level than Darvish.
But right now, the toughest pitcher to hit is Darvish. That's why he's the man.
Verlander, Hernandez & Price better
Every start Yu Darvish makes is a must-watch, because something special could happen each time he takes the mound. We saw that in his first start this season, when he was one out away from perfection against the Houston Astros.
That being said, it's way too early in his career to call Darvish the best pitcher in the American League.
He has made just 35 starts so far, so pardon me for waiting a while longer before elevating him above proven pitchers such as Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and even David Price in the American League.
Darvish has been spectacular this season, going 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA, but don't forget that two of those starts have come against the Seattle Mariners (hitting .240 as a team) and one was against the Astros (hitting .256).
For me, the most dominant pitcher in the American League is Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. Having made 237 career starts, he simply has a longer track record of success than Darvish does right now. Verlander has a career record of 126-67 -- that's a .653 winning percentage. In 2011, he went 24-5 and won the Cy Young Award and the MVP. Verlander went 17-8 in 2012. And he led the AL in strikeouts both times.
I also have to put Felix Hernandez ahead of Darvish in the American League. King Felix is off to a 3-2 start with a 1.90 ERA this season, but you have to forget about his win-loss record because he pitches for the poor-hitting Mariners. In the past three seasons, he has struck out 232, 222 and 223, respectively. Now that's a strong level of consistency.
The final pitcher in the American League whom I'd put ahead of Darvish right now is Price -- a guy who could be his teammate later this summer. This one is a lot closer for me than Verlander and Hernandez, but Price is a 20-game winner for a Tampa Bay team that doesn't produce a lot of offense. He led the league in ERA last year (2.56) and has a Cy Young Award as well.
Take nothing away from Darvish, because he is great. But he still has some climbing to do before he passes Verlander, Hernandez or Price on the American League pitching ladder.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Ron Washington joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Yu Darvish, the Rangers' recent losses and if the notion that the team looked fatigued is warranted this early in the season.
Tanner Scheppers joins Matt Mosley and Chuck Cooperstein to discuss pitching for the Rangers and what it's like watching Yu Darvish.