Dose of (Yu) Darvish: Close game numbers

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As we dissect Yu Darvish's season, a few common themes come up. The first is his high pitch count per inning and start, which we have discussed this offseason. Darvish averaged 107.8 pitches per start, which was the fourth-most in the AL. He also threw 16.5 pitches per inning. Foul balls certainly contributed. His 37.0 foul-ball percentage (foul balls per swing) was 21st in the AL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Perhaps continuing to improve fastball command, as he talked about Tuesday, will help.

The other big thing that would help him reduce pitch counts: Throw strike one. Darvish threw a strike on his first pitch 57 percent of the time. That ranked near the bottom of all AL starters. If he can get that percentage up -- even to 60 or more -- it would make a huge difference.

But the other big theme from 2013 was Darvish's lack of run support, particularly in close games. Here are some numbers -- thanks to Brandon Mendoza of ESPN's research team for digging these up -- about Darvish in one- or two-run games:

* Darvish had 18 of his 32 starts decided by two runs or fewer in 2013.

* Darvish was 3-6 (nine no decisions) with a 2.53 ERA, .179 opponent batting average and 12.3 strikeouts-per-nine innings pitched in games decided by two runs or fewer.

* The Rangers were 6-12 in Darvish games decided by two runs or fewer and scored 2.3 runs per game with a .208 batting average and more than eight strikeouts per game in those contests.

* Texas hit .165 with runners in scoring position -- 33 strikeouts and 20 hits with no homers (yep, no homers and 13 more strikeouts than hits with RISP) -- in those 18 games.

So while Darvish must bear down and attempt to improve late in those close games, he needs an offense that can score some runs in the clutch, too. It's a point of emphasis for the bats this spring.