For years, we’ve heard the Kyle Hendricks–Greg Maddux comparisons. But the newest Chicago Cubs starting pitching addition is now getting the same.
When you think ‘Yu Darvish‘, Greg Maddux probably isn’t the first comp that comes to mind. But in a recent interview, new Chicago Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey did just that – tying Darvish to the former four-time Cy Young Award winner.
"“Not physically or not stuff-wise, but the [way the] ball really comes out of his hand,” Hickey told The Athletic. “Whether he throws five pitches or six pitches or however many pitches that he possesses, it’s all in that same release point, all in that same tunnel."
Darvish already boasts a reputation for his impressive repertoire – and his ability to consistently throw from the same arm slot and release point. When he’s got a half-dozen pitches working and he’s not giving any clues as to what’s coming, opposing hitters are playing a guessing game. A game in which the deck is loaded against them, at that.
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His go-to pitch is an overpowering fastball that can get on a hitter in a hurry. In a Chicago Tribune piece earlier this spring, Cubs catcher and former Rangers battery mate Chris Gimenez broke down the heater.
"“That’s his power pitch. He does a great job of staying behind it. His spin rate is incredible. It’s very heavy. It has the feeling like you know it travels at 95-96 mph, but it really gets on you. He gets a lot of bad swings or takes because the ball jumps on you.”"
Darvish has better stuff than most big-league starters. If he didn’t the Cubs most certainly would’ve passed on the six-year, $126 million deal they gave him this winter. But, despite his struggles in the World Series last year, Chicago thinks he’s just getting started.
Are his best years ahead of him?
Two full years removed from Tommy John surgery, health is hardly a concern for the right-hander. His fastball velocity has actually increased since he underwent the procedure – only helping increase the effectiveness of his off-speed stuff.
Darvish replaces Jake Arrieta in the Chicago rotation after the righty inked a three-year deal with the Phillies last week. Fans, still bathing in the memories of 2016 and Arrieta’s part in bringing a title to the North Side, are anxious to see what this ‘new guy’ brings to the table. And, if you ask me, they’re going to be pleasantly surprised.
I, like the Cubs’ brass, believe Darvish’s best years in Major League Baseball are ahead of him – not behind. With access to unparalleled intel and one of the best in the game in Hickey behind him, Darvish may be a serious NL Cy Young contender more than once before this contract concludes.
"“He knows exactly what he’s trying to accomplish,” said Hickey. “He’s not trying to impress anybody. He’s getting ready for the season. And he didn’t say this, but it’s almost as if watching him that he’s just got something to prove. I like where he’s at.”"
That, my friends, is the key. It’s not about answering fans’ expectations. Or even overcoming what happened last October when the Astros picked up on him tipping pitches, promptly lighting him up in the World Series.
It’s about execution. And, based on all early reports, it appears that Darvish is going all-in on executing the Cubs’ vision for 2018 – one that takes his game to an entirely new level.