Chicago Cubs: Dissecting the Yu Darvish $126 million contract


by - Correspondent -
Yu Darvish was impressive in 2019 (Jeff Curry - USA Today Sports)
Yu Darvish was impressive in 2019 (Jeff Curry - USA Today Sports)

After an NLCS loss in 2017, the Chicago Cubs were set to lose one of their best pitchers in Jake Arrieta and were in the market for a big-name pitcher during the offseason. They were able to agree to a six-year $126 million contract with former Texas Ranger and Los Angeles Dodger Yu Darvish. Now entering the midpoint of his contract, how has the former All-Star performed for the Cubs, and what can the organization expect from him in the remainder of his contract?

Darvish’s first season in Chicago was one to forget. He posted a career-high 4.95 ERA in an injury-shortened season. In only eight games, Darvish let up four or more runs in four games. Darvish wouldn’t see the field after May 20 in 2018 as a stress fracture in his throwing elbow, and triceps injury would keep him sidelined.

The early struggles in 2018 continued for Darvish in the first half of 2019. Before the All-Star break, Darvish had a 7-11 record with an ERA above 5.00. Only three of his 18 starts in that span was considered a quality start. At this point, Darvish’s $21 million annual price tag was looking like an anchor on the roster. Then Darvish flipped the script entirely.

Darvish’s second half reminded the Cubs why they gave him that massive contract. Through 13 second-half games, Darvish was 6-7 with a 2.76 ERA. In that same span, Darvish gave up a .199 batting average and only seven walks in 81.2 innings. His control was the most surprising development considering where he was earlier this season.

Before the All-Star break, Darvish gave up 49 walks in 97.0 innings for an 11.7% walk rate, which ranked as the fourth-worst rate in the MLB. After that point, Darvish had the league’s best walk rate at only 2.2%. Among starters with a post-All-Star break walk rate below 5.5%, only Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole had a strikeout rate close to Darvish’s third-ranked 37.8%.

Through a rollercoaster first two seasons in Chicago, the Cubs hope they can depend on Yu Darvish looking more like his post-All-Star break self in 2020. History shows that Darvish can return to form. In his career, Darvish has looked fine from April through June with a 3.42 ERA with his ERA ballooning in July to 4.65. The final half of the regular season is where Darvish starts to turn it on with a 3.17 ERA in September and October.

The 32- year-old starter has had his struggles already in his career. After his first three seasons, Darvish looked to become one of the great Japanese baseball players with a 39-25 record with a 3.27 ERA, and a second-place Cy Young finish in 2013. Then the former Ranger underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015.

After missing all of 2015, Darvish returned in 2016 with a 3.41 ERA through 100.1 innings. The next season, Darvish would put together a solid 3.86 ERA after being traded to the Dodgers and pitching in the World Series. His World Series was forgettable after giving up eight runs in 3.1 innings leading to the Houston Astros first World Series win. However, recent reports say that the Astros were cheating and were able to see what pitches Darvish was throwing ahead of time.

With his best years possibly behind him, the key to success for Darvish is health. In a healthy 2019, Darvish was able to put together a solid season with a dominant finish. If his health permits, Darvish can show what made him a perennial All-Star from 2012-2014. With four years remaining on his contract, Darvish looks to showcase why he’s worth his contract and help the Cubs get back to the postseason.

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