Saturday, April 07, 2007

2007 is the Year of Darvish

A little late, but better late than never. The Year of Darvish has begun. With the departure of Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Major Leagues, Japan is in search of a new "face". A new ace. That front man could be 20-year old Yu Darvish.

Coming off a second season in the professional ranks in which he won his last 10 decisions on his way to a Pacific League title, Japan Series championship, and finally a title at the Asia Games, the young right hander is poised to break out. Looking at his final stats from the 2006 campaign, it's not readily evident that Darvish is set to be Japan's ace, but watching him pitch in the most important games of the year, one had to marvel at how far he's come in such a short time. The poise and maturity that he displayed in becoming a leader on the Nippon Ham ball club did not go unnoticed by the fans of the sport here in Japan.

The ratios are nothing to get excited about, especially the K/BB mark of 1.80, which illustrates the biggest problem with the young man's game. He features a fastball in the low to mid 90s, which he can locate in all the zones. His slider and curve are both plus pitches, but he can't always put them in a good spot. While the fastball is live, the breaking pitches are occasionally wild. When he's missing the breaking stuff, he gives up walks. If he relies too heavily on the fastball to make up for his poor control with the offspeed pitches, he gets hit. Once Darvish is consistently able to hit his spots and throw strikes with the breaking balls, he will be on top of the world. He's that good. Recently, Trey Hillman said that he believed that Darvish is ahead of where Matsuzaka was at 20. He thinks Darvish may one day be better than the Red Sox new ace. I don't completely agree with that, although I think he would make a fine #1 pitcher in the Majors too, given a bit more refinement and experience.

In the meantime, let's sit back and enjoy the ride. The Year of Darvish has begun.

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