Yu's Unhittable Breaking Stuff
Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 11:27AM
David Golebiewski in Rangers, Texas Rangers, Yu Darvish

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:

Velocity and pitch break on Darvish's slider (light blue) and curveball (dark blue)

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

Pitcher Miss Pct.
Drew Smyly 46.6%
CC Sabathia 44.6%
Max Scherzer 42.5%
Yu Darvish 42.3%
Daniel Bard 40.6%
Jered Weaver 40.3%
Ervin Santana 39.2%
Colby Lewis 36.2%
Ivan Nova 35.2%
Jason Hammel 34.9%
AL Avg. 30.6%


...and he also ranks fourth in opponent slugging percentage with his slider and curve...

Lowest Opponent Slugging Percentage with Breaking Stuff among AL Starters

Pitcher Slug Pct.
Justin Verlander .130
Jason Hammel .154
Brandon Morrow .197
Yu Darvish .197
Luke Hochevar .200
Henderson Alvarez .209
Daniel Bard .235
Brandon McCarthy .237
Ubaldo Jimenez .286
Kevin Millwood .310
AL Avg. .372
Article originally appeared on MLB Baseball Analytics (https://baseballanalytics.org/).
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