Game 145, Mariners at Rangers
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Yu Darvish, 5:05pm
This battle of former Sawamura Award winners (including the midly controversial 2008 award, when Iwakuma beat out Darvish) is an intriguing one. Iwakuma’s been very good recently, and his recent comments about wanting to stay with the M’s underscore the fact that he’s pitching for a contract; avoiding HRs in Arlington will help his case for a longer-term deal. It doesn’t make logical sense that keeping the Rangers in the ballpark in September should help Iwakuma get a third year on his contract, but we’re now at a point where we can see how well Iwakuma’s shoulder’s holding up, and how he adjusts to the grind of the 5-day rotation. So far, he’s passed these tests with aplomb.
Darvish already has his long-term deal, and in the Mariners, he has his bizarre kryptonite. It may not last, just as Bob Uecker’s great season against Sandy Koufax was followed by utter failure against the Dodger ace, but it’s bizarre. Darvish has made three starts against the M’s, and pitched a total of 16 innings. In those 16 IP, he’s yielded 20 hits, given up 14 walks (and plunked two batters) to 14 strikeouts and he’s given up 17 runs. His RA on the year is 4.46, but take the M’s out, and it falls to 3.92. His overall K:BB ratio is 2.31:1, but remove his three games against Seattle and it’s 2.56:1. These aren’t wild swings, but they’re not negligible either. He’s given up 20% of his runs and 16% of his walks in his 9% of playing time against Seattle – the team that’s last in the AL in runs scored, OBP and 5th from the bottom in BBs.
Despite his struggles against the M’s, he’s still a remarkable pitcher to watch and think about. His pitch fx profile here lists seven distinct pitches, and it could be at least 8 given the fact that he has two different curve balls. His velocity is very good, the movement he generates looks physics-defying, and he has a plethora of pitches with which to attack lefties or righties. Why isn’t he elite yet? By Fangraphs, he’s already racked up 4 wins, so you could make a case that it’s just bad luck that prevents us from acknowledging his greatness. His fielding-dependent stats reflect the fact that he’s been awful with men on – his strand rate is under 70%, which is tough to do when you strike out so many hitters.
Some may point to relative struggles against lefties, but he’s given up fewer HRs to them, and their success could be BABIP-driven. His K% is virtually identical against righties and lefties. Lefties clearly have a better slash line/wOBA against him, but righties have hit more HRs. There’s not a lot there. While an RA near 4.5 isn’t great, especially for someone making so much, context matters. Darvish is playing against major league hitters for the first time, and he’s striking a hell of a lot of them out. Against everyone but Seattle, he’s limited HRs and hits. While there’s some potential that his HR rate may increase, it’s easier to see him improve. But here’s hoping the M’s batter him one final time.
2: Saunders (CF)
4: Jaso (DH)
5: Montero (C)