Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Darvish Watch: Episode 13

I'm going to cut and paste the intro to Darvish Watch: Episode 12 because it's appropriate once again this time around. Here you go:

"Greetings again Darvish Watch fans. I'd like to start today with a little quiz. What is the key to a Yu Darvish victory in 2007? Answer: a good first inning. We've followed this exciting young pitcher's ascent into the lofty heights of pitching royalty in Japan, pitching stellar complete games, striking out batters in the double digits, and looking the part of the matinee idol while doing it. What he hasn't done much is come out guns blazing in the first inning to retire the side cleanly."

Do you remember that? Good. Here's a rundown of Darvish's first inning from June 23rd against Hanshin.

Takahiro Shouda - WALK
Norihiro Akahoshi - DOUBLE TO RIGHT
Tomoaki Kanemoto - 3 RUN HOME RUN
Makoto Imaoka - SWINGING K
Takashi Toritani - WALK
Akihiro Yano - 4-6-3 DOUBLE PLAY

Just like that 4-0 Hanshin. I'll let you in on a little secret. The final score of this game was 6-4 Nippon Ham in 11 innings. Once again the only damage to Yu Darvish was a first inning meltdown. I promise you that I will provide a recap soon with numbers from his first innings compared with the numbers from all other innings pitched. It will be a stark contrast, and will go a long way to showing why Darvish has room to grow. Why does this keep happening? I have a theory.

I believe that Darvish is both immature and overconfident at times. He is so dominant that he has fallen for his own image a bit. This year, after winning the Japan Series and the Konami Asia Cup, Darvish appeared with dyed brown hair and a little swagger on the mound. His numbers show that he has earned that swagger, but I think it manifests itself negatively in the first inning. He's too pumped up and too sure of himself. His focus is poor and he overthrows. Most of the time, the meltdowns are a simple matter of a hafl centimeter here and a quarter of a centimeter there. His control is just off enough that he falls behind, walks the leadoff man, and then gets into trouble with good professional hitters waiting on a straight fastball. Just like that a few runs are on the board. If I were his manager, I'd make him throw 2 simulated innings prior to the next start to wear him out just a bit. Work him in the pen and then bring him out a little winded.

Better focus comes with each successive inning, and Darvish managed to go the rest of the game allowing 6 baserunners over 8 innings. The pen took over in the 10th, and got the win in the 11th. Darvish pitched to 2 batters over the minimum from the 3rd inning until the end of the 9th. He struck out 11 Tigers on the day, but was a victim of another rocky start. It's the second consecutive game that he's walked 5 batters and control seems to have eluded the young ace. We'll be watching again this weekend to see if he can conquer the demons that have plagued him at the start of ballgames. Click below to enlarge current stats:

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