Darvish's dominance: not just the heater

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

Yu Darvish had dominant stuff against the Astros, again.Almost … again.

Yu Darvish came close to a no-hitter, against the same Houston Astros team he pitched 8 2/3 hitless innings against earlier this season. Instead, he settled for another dominant win and a small piece of baseball history.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Darvish is the first pitcher in the expansion era (since 1961) with multiple no-hit bids of seven or more innings against the same team in a season.

Let’s run through some of the other statistical highlights.

The history

Darvish became the first pitcher strike out at least 15 batters while allowing just one hit and one or fewer walks in a game since Randy Johnson in 2001.

Darvish now has five games this season with at least 14 strikeouts. The rest of baseball has combined for only three.

He’s one of three pitchers to have four starts in a season of at least 14 strikeouts and one walk or fewer in the live ball era (since 1920). The other two are Pedro Martinez (five in 1999) and Johnson (four in 1999).

Martinez's Gem vs Darvish's Gem
Opponent breakdown

Elias notes that Martinez and Darvish are the only two pitchers since 1900 to have at least 15 strikeouts in a game in which they allowed one hit, with the hit being a homer. But Martinez’s performance came against the eventual champion New York Yankees in 1999. Darvish’s came against the lowly Astros.

Darvish now has 428 career strikeouts, the fourth-most by any pitcher in the first two seasons of his career among those whose career began since 1900. He passed both Tim Lincecum and Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander on the all-time list on Monday.

How he won

As the image below shows, Darvish dominated at the bottom of the strike zone and below. It’s tough to get a read on Darvish’s pitch selection (even his team has trouble charting that), but in this start, his offspeed pitches were the most dominant.

Twelve of the strikeouts came on pitches between 77 and 82 miles-per-hour.

Cy Young contender

Darvish is 4-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 0.85 WHIP, with 50 strikeouts and 10 walks in 34 1/3 innings pitched over his last five starts.

Darvish ranks fourth in the AL with a 2.64 ERA this season, third in WHIP (1.00) and first in opponents’ batting average (.186). His 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings are by far the best in baseball, as is the 31 percent rate of swings put in play against him.