The changeup is Darvish’s least-used weapon in his kitchen-sink arsenal, but it’s reliable in a pinch if Yu needs to induce a ground ball or polish off an at-bat: A 75% ground-ball rate and 44% strikeout rate helped earn the pitch a 1.2 pVAL in spite of its limited usage.
Darvish’s curveball flirted with Money Pitch status in 2019, boasting a 15.8% swinging-strike rate and 43% chase rate, but only a 38% zone rate. The curve reliably generates grounders (58.8% ground-ball rate) and is a generous source of strikeouts, sporting an excellent 47% K rate.
Darvish’s fastball sits around 94 mph and gets tremendous spin, ranking in Statcast’s 96th percentile in the category. Batters attacked the heater for a .411 wOBA, and generating a 50% fly-ball rate (19-degree average launch angle) in a banner year for the long ball resulted in a career-high 29.5% HR/FB rate.
Darvish’s cut fastball perches atop the Fangraphs leaderboard as the MLB’s best cutter, and is yet another weapon in Yu’s seemingly endless arsenal. It’s also an offering Darvish relied on more often in 2019 than he had in any previous season: A .220 xBA and .275 xWOBA on Baseball Savant show that the cutter’s success was no fluke.
Darvish trusted his splitter more often as 2019 wore on, and his faith in the split-finger rewarded him with some gaudy stats during his dazzling late-season run. The pitch sported an elite 57.8% strikeout rate without ceding a walk, held batters to a microscopic .094 BAA, and spun a 68% ground-ball rate.
The second of Darvish’s pitches to skirt around the Money Pitch fringe, his slider flaunted a 16% swinging-strike rate, 47.7% zone rate, and a 39.6% chase rate. If Darvish can simply fool a few more batters out of the zone with his putaway slider, it’s a safe bet to believe the pitch will earn the prestigious title in 2020.
Considering his injury issues, it was nice to see that the average velocity on Darvish’s four-seamer didn’t dip at all last year and was still sitting 94 mph. The pitch had poor relative horizontal movement, but was otherwise merely mediocre in terms of contact and whiff rates.
Surprisingly, Darvish’s slider fell just short of being a Money Pitch for him in 2018, racking up a 17.2% whiff rate, 36.2% chase rate and 46% zone rate. It had above-average cut and drop and held opponents to just a .298 wOBA.
This was the pitch that did Darvish in last year, compiling a -4.1 pVal and allowing a 168 wRC+ against it. It had roughly average movement, but didn’t generate whiffs or grounders.
Usually a pitch that Darvish could rely on for a whiff rate in the mid-teens, his cutter let him down in 2018. It displayed good movement, but didn’t miss many bats, allowing a 9.1% whiff rate and .380 wOBA.
Darvish’s changeup was only thrown 25 times, but in this small sample it produced a 17.7% whiff rate and 37.5% chase rate. It showed a roughly average drop and poor arm-side run.
Generally a pitch that Darvish keeps in his back pocket, his injury-shortened season meant he only had a chance to throw the pitch 25 times in 2018. It had good movement and did a better job at generating grounders than striking opponents out.