Yu Darvish has greatness written all over him – or does he?



Yu Darvish fans hold up a sign.
Fans are quick to come to the defense of Yu Darvish. (Jim Cowser/Star-Telegram)

Yu Darvish deserved more on Monday night when he held the NL Central-leading Pittsburgh Pirates to just one run. He deserved more against the Cleveland Indians on July 27 when he held them to just one run but got nothing from his offense in return.

Two starts, 13 combined innings and two earned runs. In those 13 innings, his offense couldn’t put anything together to get him a win.

In fact, four of his last five starts have been decided by a single run, including three straight against the Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins.

In the start against Seattle, Darvish allowed one run each in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings, and his offense matched each one, sending him away with a no decision when his day was done after 7.1 innings pitched. Texas would drop a 4-3 decision to the Mariners after an RBI double in the top half of the ninth inning that the Rangers couldn’t match.

Against the White Sox however, the Rangers offense spotted Darvish a two-run lead in the top half of the six inning only for their so-called “ace” to give those two runs right back on an Adam Dunn two-run home run in the bottom half of that same inning. The Rangers would eventually lose that game 3-2 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.

It was almost the same exact story one start later against the Twins. The Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead after four innings, a lead they would still have when Darvish took the mound in the top half of the seventh inning. Like the start before, Darvish promptly gave those two runs back, plus one more, on a two-run home run from catcher Chris Herrmann and a solo shot from first baseman Justin Morneau. What was a 2-0 lead ended in a 3-2 loss.

Darvish had a rough start against Oakland in what was his shortest outing of the season, lasting just five innings. It was only the third time all season he couldn’t get through at least six innings.

While you might think I’m about to blast all of those who doubt Yu Darvish and his ability, you might want to think again.

He certainly deserves a lot of praise for the kind of season he’s had thus far, as well as none of the blame for five starts where his offense delivered little support.

However, I’m not going to take him completely off the hook.

Fans, and players alike, are frustrated and that’s understandable. Some have even begun to write off this 2013 season or compare it to how the 2012 season ended.

The Yu Darvish debate really began a few weeks ago when Texas Rangers play-by-play man Eric Nadel made pointed comments about the team’s number-one starter. The comments got immediate reaction from the fan base, which jumped to the defense of the Japanese right-hander, throwing out any stat they could to prove Nadel’s opinion wrong.

During a broadcast, Nadel questioned Darvish’s ability to close games and shut down teams in the late innings. To his credit, Nadel didn’t shy away from his comments or the debate that followed on Twitter from any number of fans. When it was over, Nadel once again made his point:

“Let me be clear. I think Yu is very good. He has room to get better in shutdowns and close games. And I haven’t seen stats that disprove it.”

No matter how much you may not want to agree with Nadel, or write whatever you want to write on the subject, you have to look at the games against the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, not to mention the five earned runs and six walks in five innings of work against the Oakland Athletics, and admit that his point has some merit.

Yu Darvish doesn’t need fans defending him after every start, dropping the always popular “I told you so,” after he has the kind of start he did against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.

He’s having a tremendous season and there’s argument to be made that, with a little offensive help, he may already have achieved a 20-win season with a few starts to spare.

But I think it’s fair for Nadel, as well as others, to question Darvish or even believe that he’s capable of more than giving up late leads when his offense gives him a few runs to work with. This lineup is not going to score four to six runs per game, and they’ll be lucky to average two to three runs per game the rest of the way.

Knowing that, are we really going to let Darvish off the hook even if he’s handed a two-run lead with the excuse of, “well that wasn’t enough offense”? If two runs isn’t enough, how many runs is enough where the guy with the ball isn’t let off the hook every time he takes the mound?

Every pitcher would love a big enough cushion to not have to get cute with their pitches or throw a certain pitch in a situation they normally wouldn’t have to — but don’t the great ones find ways to get it done? Don’t the great pitchers find ways to make sure their team finishes with a win when they’re handed a lead?

When Yu Darvish loses a late lead, you’ll hear “the offense should have taken advantage of certain missed opportunities earlier in the game.” When he struggles like he did against Oakland, you’ll hear “look at his numbers, he’s been great all year, don’t look at one start.” When he’s the tough luck loser in a 1-0 game, you’ll hear “the offense sucks; they didn’t give him one bit of support.”

Have you noticed what you don’t hear? “There’s nothing wrong with expecting more from a pitcher with greatness written all over him.”

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