Chicago Cubs: Yu Darvish having more success on the road

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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The up-and-down season of Chicago Cubs starter Yu Darvish this season has seen him pitch remarkably better away from the Friendly Confines.

It was incredibly frustrating to see the Chicago Cubs lose to the rival St. Louis Cardinals Friday night in extra innings, for a number of reasons. The unbelievable missed call by home plate umpire Laz Diaz turned out to be the biggest story of the night and it ultimately washed away a very good start by Yu Darvish.

In his first career start at Busch Stadium, Darvish gave up only one run on three hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out six on 93 pitches. It looked like a potential disaster in the first inning when he walked the first two batters, but he limited the damage to one run and shut down the Cardinals the rest of the way. Not to mention he drove in the lone Cubs run of the game on a second-inning sacrifice fly, just the second RBI of his career.

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The veteran righty currently sports a 5.02 ERA, 5.31 FIP, 1.56 WHIP, 10.8 K/9 and 6.0 BB/9 on the season. Walks have really killed Darvish as the strikeout numbers are very good and hitters are hitting just .240 against him. Within the inconsistency have been some very solid outings like last night, and many of them have come on the road.

Home and road splits for Darvish

After last night’s game, Darvish has made 12 starts with exactly half of them coming at home and half on the road. His six starts at Wrigley see some pretty ugly numbers: 6.32 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 34 strikeouts, 19 walks, a .275/.376/.533 slash against and 22 earned runs in 31 1/3 innings. Granted his last start at Wrigley was with the wind howling out and he managed to grind out seven innings despite allowing six runs, but overall we want to see those numbers improve.

As for his half-dozen road outings, he sports a 3.64 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, a .200/.351/.324 slash against, 39 strikeouts, 22 walks and 12 earned runs in 29 2/3 innings. Yeah, the walks are still really bad but he is missing more bats and preventing hard contact as hitters are batting much lower and slugging a lot less. His last three road starts he has put up a combined 2.11 ERA, giving up 10 hits and striking out 25.

Why such a difference?

There are a number of theories one could put out as to why Darvish has been better on the road so far. Some further data analysis shows he is a wee bit luckier on balls in play on the road, which his BABIP against is .281 (.309 at home) with 32.8 percent of those being hit hard (31.5 percent at home). His start at Wrigley Field against the Phillies is a good example of him throwing grade-A stuff but having a slow grounder and bloop triple doom an otherwise great outing.

However as previously mentioned, he is still missing more bats on the road. His strikeout rate away from Wrigley is six percent higher and his groundball rate is also roughly six percent better. Probably the most dramatic difference is his flyball rate at Wrigley is eight percent higher, which has resulted in eight home runs given up at home vs. three on the road.

Next. . dark

Darvish may see technically more “hard contact” on the road, but more of it is for outs and his ability to throw more pitches by batters on the road makes for overall more effective outings. The next start for Darvish, if nothing happens, will be at Wrigley Field later next week. Hopefully, he can bring what he brought to St. Louis to the Confines in a win.

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