Chicago Cubs: Injecting a healthy, effective Yu Darvish into the rotation

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: The fifth-inning yips proved costly for Darvish

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy struggle with one particular frame as much as Darvish did in the fifth inning last season. Granted, he made just eight starts – but it’s not like he was even effective in those outings. We’d probably all feel a lot better if he’d have been blowing guys away in April, but that was far from the case.

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In his eight starts, opponents batted in the range of .115 and .207 against the right-hander. The Cubs, for obvious reasons, would take that ten times out of ten. But as soon as the scorecard flipped to the fifth, Darvish imploded almost without fail – to the tune of an albatross .533 opponent batting average and unthinkable .967 slugging percentage.

Darvish lasted through six innings just three times – and in each of those outings, he allowed one earned run or less. In fact, his final start of the year, coming on May 20 against the Reds, was a sharp one. He turned in six innings of one-run ball, striking out seven and walking three.

His fifth-inning woes largely coincided with lineups turning over for a third look. While effective the first two times through, Darvish struggled badly against opponents when seeing them a third time, with teams squaring him up to the tune of a .455/.526/.879 line last season.

So the first ‘must’ for him heading into 2019? Figure out the fifth inning. It doesn’t matter if last year’s struggles were physical, mental or a little or both – it’s a new season and a clean slate.

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