Daily (Yu) Darvish: Breaking down his start

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Now that Yu Darvish's first Cactus League start is complete, here are some of my thoughts, incorporating thoughts of some scouts as well.

Let's start with the pitch-by-pitch breakdown (thanks to Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks and Lone Star Dugout's Jason Cole and a few scouts around them for verifying pitches and speeds; forgive me if it's not perfect):


  • CF Cameron Maybin: Fastball called strike (92), slider ball (85), fastball strike (93), fastball fouled (95), splitter ball (88), slider (84) for a swinging strikeout.

  • 2B Orlando Hudson: Fastball swinging strike (94), changeup ball (85), fastball strike (93), splitter fouled (87), 92 fastball up in zone, double to CF.

  • 1B Jesus Guzman: Slider strike (83), fastball called strike (95), slider (82) fly out to center.

  • LF Carlos Quentin: Fastball swinging strike (93), fastball ball (93), slider strike (83), fastball ball (94), curve swinging strike (80).


  • RF Will Venable: Curve swinging strike (67), changeup ball, splitter strike (87), splitter ball (88), fastball (92) hit for double off wall in CF.

  • DH Mark Kotsay: Two-seam fastball called strike (90), cutter (88) hit to first for groudball out.

  • 3B James Darnell: Fastball ball (93), slider called strike (83), fastball (93), curveball (78) ball, fastball (94) chopped back to mound, Darvish throws home to get runner in rundown.

  • C John Baker: Fastball called strike (92), cutter fouled (89), curve fouled (80), fastball ball (93), splitter (88) for strikeout.

Now some thoughts:

* Darvish threw out of the stretch the entire outing, saying he was just comfortable doing that Wednesday. He will decide whether to throw out of the stretch exclusively depending on how he feels and the Rangers aren't worried about it. Pitching coach Mike Maddux said Darvish told him he planned on throwing out of the stretch Wednesday.

“I’ve got to check the rule book, but I don’t think there’s an infraction for pitching out of the stretch,” Maddux said. “The biggest pitches you make in the game come out of the stretch, so if you want to hone that craft, by all means.”

* One scout described Darvish's split-fingered fastball as a "trap-door splitter." The pitch just drops at home plate, making it very tough on hitters. It looks like a pitch in the zone and then dips. Darvish threw several good ones on Wednesday, particularly to get Baker out to end his two innings of work.

* Don't discount Darvish's athletic ability to defend his position. He made two nice plays. The one that will get the most attention was leaping to catch on the chopper by Darnell. Darvish used his 6-foot-5 frame, snagged the ball and then made a smart throw home to get the runner caught in a rundown. But to me the better play was racing off the mound after Kotsay's grounder to first and getting there in plenty of time for Michael Young to flip the ball. Then Darvish looked the runner at third to make sure he wasn't heading home. It was a solid, fundamental play.

* Manager Ron Washington was curious how Darvish would react when things didn't go right. Turns out he was fine. He gave up a double to the second batter he faced and then got the next two batters out. He also allowed a leadoff double in the second, but threw strikes and made defensive plays to get out of the jam.

* It was a good first step for Darvish. I also thought it was good he got to see what happens when he makes mistakes. The double to Venable was a fastball that caught too much of the plate and was up. And Venable drilled it. Darvish will learn from that.

* Darvish was pleased with his command on his secondary pitches, which he said was better than what he did on Friday in the intrasquad game.

* I talked to a few fans from Japan who came to see Darvish pitch, even bringing signs to cheer him on.

"We think Darvish was the best in Japan," said Yasuyo Muta, a 39-year-old who lives in nearby Glendale. Her husband was transferred to Arizona as an engineer with Toyota.

Asked if Darvish could be the best in the United States, Muta said: "I think so."