Chicago Cubs: Yu Darvish needs to improve control from the bullpen

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish leads the league in walks this season. Now seems like the perfect time to let him figure it out – from the bullpen.

Watching a healthy Yu Darvish take the mound this season has been, aside from performance, relieving, for the Chicago Cubs so far.  It’s been a long road back for the Japanese-born hurler. We’ve recently seen more and more of the person he is off the field, which has made it hard to not pull for the guy. 

Just a month into the 2019 campaign, Darvish is tied for the most starts in the league with six, but none of those outings have come without stress. With a record of 2-3 and a league-leading 22 walks to this point, he needs to spend time in the bullpen to hone in on his control. As crazy as it might sound, it’s a short-term move the Cubs should consider.

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Sure, Darvish is coming off his best start of the season against Arizona, throwing six innings, striking out eight and picking up the win. This, along with his other five starts, didn’t come without trouble, though.

He threw 56 pitches in his first two innings and had to escape huge jams, walking four in his six innings. So, he may have had his best performance, but there’s still some uneasiness in there.

Darvish has some of the best stuff in the game. With a fastball over 95 MPH and a nasty slider, he led the league with 277 punchouts back in 2013. The potential’s there, but with all of the injuries, he’s lost his confidence and trust in his pitches.

The league-leading 22 walks (keep in mind he’s thrown roughly 10 fewer innings than the guy who ranks second in free passes), three hit batters and a 1.57 WHIP (ninth-worst in baseball), help illustrate that. He needs to get back to domination with his fastball, and it’s so tough to work on that as a starter when you’re expected to go five-plus innings every time you get the ball. Having him spend time in the bullpen, where he can lock in for an inning at a time, would be beneficial both in the short and long-term.

This move should not be considered a demotion, but to help him re-discover the ace-like make-up the team desperately needs to make another deep October run. The Cubs have seen his short-term replacement make himself known in these past few weeks, and his name is Tyler Chatwood.

Darvish and Chatwood are two completely different pitchers with a similar narrative. Both were huge signings in the 2018 offseason that have not paid off – at least not yet. Chatwood was brought in as a starter but he himself led all of baseball in walks last season.

Chicago kicked him to the pen to open 2019, hoping he could rectify his control issues and, so far, it’s been more good than bad. With a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, he, like Darvish, has traveled a long road to this point – and could still yet be a huge asset to the Chicago Cubs.

He delivered six shutout innings in his only start this year, picked up his first win of the season by getting out of a bases-loaded jam in extra innings and has shown serious growth so far in year two. Giving him an opportunity to start a few ballgames while sending Darvish to the bullpen to work on the same thing would pay huge dividends.

By adding Darvish to the bullpen for a few weeks, the Cubs will be able to have a short-term and long-term goal, if the two can co-exist. Darvish will help this team late in games now while improving himself to help the team late in the season.

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It’s a move Chicago has the opportunity to make with a healthy staff and a young season, and I believe they need to take advantage of it. I have no doubt in my mind that Darvish has what it takes to be one baseball’s best, but he needs to take a step back in order to move forward in a big way.