The Chicago Cubs Yu Darvish is the bright spot in the rotation. So good, in fact, he could be the next Cub since Jake Arrieta to win the NL Cy Young.
It is funny how baseball goes. The Chicago Cubs passed on signing Jake Arrieta in 2017, just two years removed from a Cy Young and after playing a pivotal role in the starting rotation on the 2016 World Series-winning team.
The Cubs banked the money they could have spent on fan fave Arrieta and bided their time. In 2018 they signed the guy they thought was better. Yu Darvish.
The wheels came off almost immediately. Injured early in 2018, Darvish pitched only 40 innings through eight games and posted a miserable 4.95 ERA and 1.425 WHIP. Fans were calling for FO scalps.
But there was a glimmer of the promise of what was to come that was lost in the 2018 catastrophe. On May 20th, before Darvish was sidelined for the season, he twirled six innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits and striking out seven. We’d seen this same performance a month earlier, on April 27th against Milwaukee. Few noticed the gems in the disaster of 2018.
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However, 2019 started a little better. By June, Darvish had posted a 4.91 ERA, and his control was spotty at best. Then, it happened. I don’t know what happened, but it did.
From July 3rd to the end of the season, Darvish pitched to a 2.95 ERA, posting 124 Ks to just seven walks. He was one of the best pitchers in all of MLB in the second half of 2019 and instantly went from fan contempt to fan fave, with charts of YU!!! raining down from the stands. Baseball is a funny game.
So far, in 2020, it’s been much the same as the end of 2019, but even better—a 1.77 ERA with 72 Ks to 11 walks, and a ridiculously low 0.875 WHIP.
So, with just three or four starts left in the season, can Yu win the NL Cy Young? Max Fried in Atlanta will undoubtedly be in that discussion, as will Jacob deGrom with the Mets and Trevor Bauer with the Reds.
But Fried could be out for the season, deGrom has had his injuries, and the Mets are out of the pennant race, and with the Reds fading Bauer’s chances could slip.
Basic stats so far would give Fried the edge in WAR (2.8 vs. 2.4 for Darvish), though Darvish leads Fried in ERA (1.77 vs. 1.98), he trails both deGrom and Bauer in ERA. Darvish leads all three in wins with seven.
But dig into the more sophisticated analytics, and you find, Darvish leads the National League. That includes Adjusted Pitching Runs and Wins, Base-Out Runs Saved, Win Probability Added, Situational Wins Saved, and Base-Out Wins Saved.
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What this all adds up to is that no pitcher in the National League is more valuable to his team’s ability to win games than Darvish. It’s not even close. In fact, in all of MLB, overall, only Shane Bieber of Cleveland is more valuable than Darvish.
So it’ll come down to these last couple of games. If Yu pitches like we’ve seen so far this year, and the Cubs win the Division, yes, I think Darvish will win the NL Cy Young. Baseball is a funny game.