Darvish the dominator
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish had a Jekyll and Hyde rookie season, but he's ready to assume a consistent identity in 2013.

He was, at times, a dominant presence who finished seventh in the MLB in strikeouts, but he also walked the sixth-most batters in baseball.

Still, he profiles as someone who can throw a 10-strikeout shutout every time he takes the mound because he keeps the ball away from opponents' bats.

According to baseball-reference.com, Darvish tied for second in baseball in swing-and-miss percentage (21%) and ball-in-play percentage (25%) and also had the second-lowest contact percentage in baseball (71%).

He ended up winning 16 games with a 3.90 ERA, so it was a mostly successful first year in the big leagues for the 26-year-old Japanese import.

But Texas is going to need more from its pitching staff in 2013 after losing Josh Hamilton to the Angels. The Rangers offense now has significantly less bite, so the rotation will have to step up to get the team back in the postseason.

It all starts with Darvish.

Fortunately, he seemed to be more confident in his stuff -- especially the four-seamer, which he used as a first pitch to righties 45 percent and lefties 26 percent of the time -- as the season progressed.

According to brooksbaseball.com's Pitchf/x tool, Darvish threw his four-seam fastball for a ball 45.14 percent in April and 42.86 percent in May but just 37 percent in June, 40.6 percent in July, 40.26 percent in August and 38.1 percent in September.

His K/9 in his first 12 starts was a 9.5, which is still impressive, but he dwarfed that number with a 10.9 K/9 over his final 17.

The right-hander also improved his walk rate as the season went on. After walking an unsightly 5.45 batters per nine innings over his first 12 starts, and walked 3.41 in his final 17.

In fact, Darvish walked just 10 batters total over his final 50 2/3 innings of the season.

That performance may have been aided by facing diluted rosters in September, but the numbers above show that he started improving in mid-June.

When Darvish did allow batters to get wood on the ball, they didn't do much damage. According to fangraphs.com, Darvish induced 225 ground balls against just 154 fly balls in 2012, which allowed him to keep the ball in the park. He gave up 14 homers, an impressive number considering he pitches in one of the better hitter's parks in baseball.

Nine of those homers came at Rangers Ballpark, where Darvish posted a 3.88 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 111 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings. He was nearly identical on the road, where he had a 3.92 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 110 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings.

Given his ability to induce weak contact (or none at all), it seems that Darvish's 2012 ERA of 3.90 is his absolute floor for 2013, and his 2012 FIP of 3.29, which was 14th best in baseball, suggests he'll be even better than that.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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