Yu Darvish's attitude is key after Astros' sign-stealing debacle

by - Staff Writer -
Darvish was cheated by the Houston Astros (Jon Durr - USA Today Sports)
Darvish was cheated by the Houston Astros (Jon Durr - USA Today Sports)

When you take a look at the Cubs rotation for 2020, a lot of weight is being put on Yu Darvish to perform the way he did in the back half of the 2019 season.

It seemed that the all-star break of 2019 was precisely what Darvish needed to finally break out of his shell and pitch up to his capabilities. Before that, Darvish had spent a year and a half in a new uniform being criticized for not performing up to his contract and searching for the confidence he had been missing since the 2017 World Series.

Now it is clear why Darvish struggled so much in that 2017 World Series. In two starts in that fall classic against the Astros, Darvish only lasted a total of 3.1 innings and gave up eight runs. It was said that Darvish was tipping his pitches, but it is now evident that the Astros were using various technologies to steal signs at home, and Darvish was one of the pitchers who was victimized most. Darvish suffered two of the four losses in the World Series, including getting obliterated in game seven.

Darvish went into free agency coming off one of the worst postseason performances in history and lost a chance to earn a record deal like Gerritt Cole earned from the Yankees after dominating in the postseason when he was on the market. Instead, the Cubs took a chance on Darvish, who lasted almost all the way to spring training and signed him to a six-year, 126 million dollar deal.

The four-time all-star went to Chicago looking for that lost confidence in 2018, and instead only made eight starts and his season ended far too soon.

His second year of the deal saw Darvish look much more comfortable, which was last season. He approached spring training with a new attitude, a solid relationship with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and a newfound ability to speak English with reporters and his teammates. Although he struggled on the mound in the first half of last season, Darvish proved his durability in 2019 with 31 starts and developed a noticeable rapport with backup catcher Victor Caratini.

In the second half, Darvish was 4-4 with a 2.86 ERA. He found better command on the mound, which led to him having 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings and just seven walks compared to 44 in the first half. To further the point of how much better Darvish was in the second half, Darvish had five more strikeouts in the second half than he did in the first half, and he started five more games in the first half.

THAT is the Darvish the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him, and THAT is the Darvish the Cubs are expecting to show up in 2020. Not to mention, THAT is the Darvish that could have potentially been unleashed if the Houston Astros did not damage the integrity of the game and hurt Darvish’s mental makeup, confidence and career.

This is just one story of the many pitchers who had careers that were damaged, dented, or even ended by the cheating that the Astros did. This is just the one that hits closest to home for Cubs fans.

It seems that Darvish had put this part of his career behind him, though, and is looking forward to continuing on the solid path he marched down in the second half of 2019.

Darvish told the Chicago Tribune around Cubs Convention that “If I didn’t have that World Series, I can’t pitch like last year in that second half. That came from that thing; I was fired up. I have to take that the right way.”

Some of Darvish’s teammates have mentioned that they feel for Darvish, who was stuck in the middle of the scandal as one of the most affected pitchers. But as Darvish has moved on, the Cubs are happy they made the deal for Darvish before the 2018 season. 126 million for six years seemed like a lot back then, but relative to the new market for starting pitchers that pitchers like Gerritt Cole has set the Cubs have a bargain, and they hope they have an ace.

As the MLB discipline the teams, coaches, and organizations involved in the scandal, certain pitchers like Darvish are also attempting to move on. He seems to have the right attitude in the matter, which can only help the Cubs in 2020 — especially if the 33-year-old right-hander can pitch as he did after the all-star break last year.

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