Coming off a horrendous 2018 campaign, one has to wonder where this year’s Chicago Cubs team would be without the work of Yu Darvish.
Yu Darvish has come a long way.
After signing a six-year, $126 million contract in Feb. 2018, the team expected Darvish to boost a Chicago Cubs pitching staff that saw Jake Arrieta leave in free agency. Instead, Darvish was a non-factor, struggling with consistency before getting shut down due to injury after a mere eight starts.
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2019 has been a complete 180 for Darvish. And for the Cubs, everything the veteran right-hander has provided has been much needed, with one having to wonder where the team would be without him this season.
Darvish holds a 6-6 record, but his impact goes beyond his win-loss record. He’s the glue that holds the starting rotation together, becoming the Cubs’ most consistent starting pitcher the All-Star Break.
Including his July 12 start against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Darvish is 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA, striking out 93 batters in 66 1/3 innings. He’s allowed two earned runs or less in eight of his 11 starts, including five starts with no earned runs allowed.
Last season, it was anyone’s guess what the Cubs would get from Darvish when he took the ball. Would he make it past the fourth inning? Could he keep his walks down?
This season, no one questions Darvish’s longevity each start. And, considering Thursday was his first time walking more than a single batter since June 26, he’s alleviated concerns in that area, too.
That’s what the Cubs and their fans expect to see from Darvish each time out. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Darvish’s ascension has come in a season where Jon Lester and Cole Hamels have been up-and-down and Kyle Hendricks looks like a far better pitcher at home than on the road.
Eyeing the postseason
The Cubs have their work cut out for them, as they enter Friday four games back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central and tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for the second Wild Card spot. Essentially, the postseason is no guarantee right now.
If the Cubs reach October, though, who is their best option for an NLDS Game 1 or Wild Card Game start? Look no further than Darvish.
Lester and Hamels come with a ton of pedigree and have pitched in plenty of big games during their careers. However, Lester (5.72 ERA, 11 starts) and Hamels (6.49 ERA, eight starts) have struggled in the second half.
Although there’s still time (albeit, not much) to move up in the standings, the Cubs likely would open the postseason on the road. Hendricks holds a 3.33 ERA in 27 starts, but that number is far worse on the road (4.94, 15 starts) than at home (1.77, 12 starts).
For all that Darvish has been through in a Cubs uniform, he’s the most formidable starter on the team at this point. And despite winning just six games, he’s kept the Cubs in far more than that.
Last season, Cubs fans were second-guessing the team signing Darvish. Now, they have to feel more than lucky to have him.