Yu's Unhittable Breaking Stuff
So far, the $111 million investment that the Texas Rangers made in Yu Darvish looks like money well spent. Darvish is tied for the American League lead in wins (six) while also leading AL starters in strikeout percentage (25.8 percent of batters faced) and placing third in ERA+ (168). The former Sawamura Award winner is known for his Mariana Trench-deep repertoire, but his breaking stuff has been especially nasty as he pitches himself into Cy Young contention for the first-place Rangers.
Darvish features a power slider (thrown slightly less than 20 percent of the time) that typically sits in the low-80s, as well as a curveball (thrown about 12 percent) that averages about 73 mph but has gone as low as 62 mph on the gun. Aside from the big difference in velocity, part of what makes Darvish's slider/curve combo so deadly is that the pitches show nearly identical horizontal break but drastically different vertical break.
Both his slider (light blue on the graph below) and curveball (dark blue) move away from right-handed hitters about eight inches. But the curveball drops a half-foot more than the slider:
With Darvish's slider and curve breaking in on hitters about the same amount but showing major differences in velocity and vertical break, his breaking stuff has been among the most effective in the game. Darvish ranks fourth among AL starters in miss rate with his breaking pitches...
Highest Miss Percentage with Curveballs and Sliders among AL Starters
...and he also ranks fourth in opponent slugging percentage with his slider and curve...
Lowest Opponent Slugging Percentage with Breaking Stuff among AL Starters