Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yu Darvish Changes The Game... and the math

So I had the very fine pleasure of watching Yu Darvish turn a very good Yankee lineup, in a very good hitters' park, into absolute meek hamburger last night, as the Rangers beat the Yankees 2-0.

Darvish went 8.1 innings, giving way only to the one double play pitch of Joe Nathan to finish things off, and never looked like he was doing anything difficult. And sure, it's April and a home game, but the Yanks came in swinging hot bats, and Arlington is never an easy place to pitch, and this is your first Ranger shutout of the Bombers in a dog's age. And how Darvish did it was, well, striking.

This isn't a per se crafty guy, the way so many Japanese pitchers have been, with quirks in the delivery or better breaking stuff than pure heat. Darvish isn't killing the radar gun, but he's throwing in the mid 90s without any seeming effort, and everything's got a tail on it, or at least did last night.

You can really see why so many teams were willing to pony up the big bucks for him; he's an obvious #1 arm, and while every pitcher is always on his way to his next injury, there's nothing violent or forced about his motion. He's long to the plate, and looks like he might beat himself by not being able to repeat his motion all the time, but that's all good -- because if he didn't have flaws, he'd be damn near unhittable, and smart to boot.

There is, of course, one other moment of hope for the Rangers' enemies, and that is the rather long leash that the Rangers have him on might trip him up. Last night was his second straight game in the 120 pitch neighborhood, as Nolan Ryan continues to put his stamp on the organization as the No Babies Allowed team. But it's very hard to see how that's hurting them, seeing how the Rangers have gone to two straight World Series without massive pitching injuries, and many of their young arms have thrived.

Personally, I look at Darvish and see a guy that redefines the landscape. Everyone knew he was going to be good; he's that perfect combination of skills plus performance. No one really thinks that Japanese pitchers can't transfer competence here; it's the same as taking a guy from Cuba, college, or high school and for every Kei Igawa, there's been a Hideo Nomo and Hideki Kuroda (who pitched fine in a losing effort for the Yanks last night as well).

 Rather, there's this. The Yankees' $180 million payroll, in that the new Stadium has ceased to bring in dramatic infusions of cash (note how those close seats are still empty, two years later? telling), and the YES Network has matured. Instead, it is other teams like Texas, Anaheim, and maybe soon the Dodgers and Astros, that are bringing their regional networks online, and getting in the $150 range.

And well, $30 million isn't *that* big of an edge, especially when you are already locked down on guys like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Derk Jeter... None of whom, well, looked anything as exciting as Darvish last night.

 Now, if we can just someone get every team up to spending $150 million on player salaries, we'll fix baseball for all, rather than just 10 markets.

But until then, Darvish pitches again in four days...

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