Cubs: 2019 season saw the slow return to form for Yu Darvish
Working back from injuries and a career-worst season was not going to be easy for Darvish. The goal for spring training was to get back to normal after spending the majority of 2018 injured.
His first 14 starts collectively saw many of the same struggles from 2018. The walk rate was ridiculously high, 44 walks in 72 1/3 innings which resulted in a .351 opponent OBP. In six starts he walked four-plus hitters. That’s not to mention the 13 home runs given up, an overall 4.98 ERA and .776 OPS in those first 14 starts. Only once he went seven innings as his struggles resulted in very early hooks by Joe Maddon. His overall ERA as a Cub through 22 starts stood at 4.98.
Then, the turning point in Yu Darvish’s Cubs career. June 15 at Dodger Stadium where he went seven innings and gave up one run on two hits and struck out 10, issuing just one walk.
That was his first start at Dodger Stadium since Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. While sounding very cliché, it feels like that start erased his demons of the past. What followed was an incredibly different pitcher than the one who struggled in his first 22 starts. The rest of his 17 starts in 2019, he pitched to a 3.30 ERA, .198/.232/.401 slash against and an unthinkable 148 strikeouts to only a dozen walks.
The difference between 44 walks in 14 starts and 12 walks in 17 starts is absolutely unreal. During that run, he went seven or more innings in five starts after doing that just once in his first 22 Cubs outings. He finished the year with a 1.097 WHIP after posting an 11.7 percent walk rate in the first half. A confident Darvish was absolutely dominant down the stretch.