For those of you who don’t know me (which is 99.9 percent of you), I come to Friars on Base via Cubbies Crib, the FanSided site dedicated to the Chicago Cubs.
I’m still running things over there, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to come and cover the San Diego Padres. I mean, let’s be honest: there is no team in Major League Baseball more exciting than the Friars heading into 2021. But with my decade covering the Cubs comes a unique perspective on someone like Yu Darvish.
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I covered the Darvish trade from the other side of the equation – and let me tell you, while any of the far-off prospects AJ Preller sent to Chicago could wind up being quality players, Cubs fans were, to put it mildly, very unhappy with the return. Why? Darvish had battled back from a disastrous start to his time in the Windy City to become a fan favorite – a telling sign given how unforgiving Chicago baseball fans can be, especially post-2016.
In his first year with the Cubs, Darvish made just eight ineffective starts before getting shut down for the season due to injury. Coming off that injury-plagued campaign where he flirted with a 5.00 ERA and a walk rate nearly double his career average, the Japanese-born veteran started off slow in 2019, as well.
But in the second half, something changed. He was absolutely relentless down the stretch. Saying he could do whatever he wanted out there doesn’t come close to doing it justice. He posted a 118-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go with a 0.808 WHIP in just 81 2/3 innings of work.
Padres are hoping Yu Darvish can replicate his dominant 2020
Last season, he didn’t miss a beat, picking up right where he left off en route to a runner-up finish in the National League Cy Young voting. He made three starts away from Wrigley Field and allowed one run in 20 innings of work. In the month of August, Darvish went 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA – oh, and that marked his highest WHIP of the shortened 2020 season: 1.030.
All this to say Darvish is a guy who excels when he’s comfortable. He thrives on enthusiasm and support from his teammates and the fanbase, something we clearly saw the longer he played in Chicago. Given the Padres’ tremendous clubhouse rapport and the hunger this fanbase has, don’t be surprised if he shatters all expectations and puts up ace-level numbers again in 2021.