Yu Darvish has perhaps the most extensive arsenal of pitches of any starting pitcher in the league. The San Diego Padres are well aware of that fact and will, rightfully, let the big right-hander call the shots when it comes to how he attacks hitters this season.
After watching Darvish come into his own as a member of the Cubs, I can tell you that sitting on a particular pitch against him doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as expecting a first-pitch fastball when this guy is on the mound. You’re just as likely to get a slider, cutter or any one of the 11 pitches he throws.
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"“The ability to throw the ball as hard as he can is a really good strong suit,” Padres pitching coach Larry Rothschild told MLB.com. “But they play off each other. A lot of times, it plays backwards from what people would like to see. But I think it’s highly effective, and he’s gotten comfortable in his own skin with that … For me to get in the way of that would be a big mistake.”"
Last season, Darvish finished as the runner-up in the race for the NL Cy Young, losing out to new Dodgers right-hander Trevor Bauer. He led the league with eight wins and a 2.23 FIP in his 12 starts, working to a career-best 6.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Now, if you haven’t been watching him over the last three years, that might not be as eye-popping to you. But Darvish’s early years with the Cubs were brutal. He was completely unable to find the zone and it proved costly.
Padres are making a fantastic decision in not changing Yu Darvish
Then, halfway through the 2019 campaign, something clicked and, since then, he’s been able to pinpoint his pitches with devastating accuracy. So it makes sense San Diego is in no quick hurry to change anything with Darvish – because doing so could risk upsetting the comfort he’s re-established with himself on the mound.
"“He knows himself really well, and I think where people have gotten in trouble with him in the past … is that they took away what he’s really good at, and that’s manipulating the baseball and knowing what pitches to make when,” said Rothschild."
This might wind up being the best decision the Padres make this spring. Too many teams want pitchers to fit into their system or plan and it ends up being a round peg-square hole-type setup. Instead, San Diego is ready to unleash Darvish, who knows his 11 pitches and how to deploy them better than anyone in the game.