Chicago Cubs: Yu Darvish’s last start should be viewed as progress

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Yu Darvish didn’t pitch great Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the start should be viewed as progress for the Chicago Cubs right-hander.

Look, I get it. Yu Darvish is still not pitching at the level fans expected when the right-hander signed a massive six-year contract with the Chicago Cubs last February. His most recent start — Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates — exemplifies this perhaps better than any other.

And yet, Wednesday’s start still was not as bad as it appears in the box score for Darvish. This is especially true when considering how the 32-year-old fared in his debut season with the Cubs in 2018.

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Darvish pitched 5 1/3 innings Wednesday, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits. He struck out just four batters, but more importantly, he walked no one. In terms of these numbers, there’s some good and some bad takeaways.

Let’s start with the bad. While Darvish allowed four earned runs, five runs ultimately came across the plate on his watch. Three of those runs came on two home runs, meaning Darvish has allowed at least one home run in seven of his 11 starts with the Cubs.

Perhaps we should give the right-hander some credit when considering the conditions at Wrigley Field on Wednesday. Temperatures were barely above freezing, hardly ideal for playing baseball.

At the same time, one would think this would benefit pitchers more than hitters. This was not the case, at least for Darvish and the Cubs, who went down 1-0 in the first inning and never caught up.

The good

In terms of the good, Darvish “making it” into the sixth inning is surely a positive sign for the Cubs. Darvish pitched into the sixth inning just three times in 2018, pitching exactly six innings on April 7, April 27 and May 20.

Counting Wednesday, Darvish has pitched into the sixth inning in a start with the Cubs in four of his 11 starts. The Chicago Cubs would obviously like to see Darvish make it a full six innings, if not more, every start. He didn’t Wednesday, but it feels like he made some progress.

Lastly, Darvish walking no batters should not be overlooked. Wednesday was the first time Darvish walked zero batters in a start with Chicago. In fact, he has walked multiple batters in nine of his 11 career Cubs starts.

Is walking zero batters the bar we should set for Darvish to evaluate his success level? No, definitely not, as he still has a lot of room for improvement.

Turn for the better

However, considering he walked seven batters against the Texas Rangers on March 30 in 2 2/3 innings and four Atlanta Braves in four innings on April 4 (woah, fours are wild), things did take a turn for the better Tuesday, at least a little bit.

The Cubs still lost 5-2 and that’s what matters above everything else. They’re now 3-8 on the season, a dreadful start for a team with playoff aspirations.

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For fans looking for something positive to latch onto, though, Darvish’s small signs of improvement certainly should help.