Been meaning to get around to this for a couple days. The pivot of the Cubs toward Yu Darvish has been something of a surprise, and while hardly a sure thing yet there does seem to be a lot of smoke.
One aspect seems to be that he’ll come in cheaper than Jake Arrieta. And when you start to dig in a bit you can see why. though they’re basically the same age, they might not have the same tread on the tires.
If we include Darvish’s time in Japan, even with its once-a-week schedule for pitchers, Darvish has thrown over 500 more innings than Arrieta, if we include Arrieta’s minor league days. Figuring out how Japanese and minor league baseball equate to major league stress is probably a fool’s errand. We just know how many innings there are. But 500 innings is nearly three seasons worth of pitching from a guy like Darvish, who hasn’t cracked 200 innings in a season but once here in the states. So perhaps it’ll be easier to get Darvish in at four years, probably five, than it would be Arrieta who is looking for six or seven. Though he’s yet to get it.
Still, 2000 innings overall hasn’t really been a true barometer for anything for all of Darvish’s contemporaries. 2,500 might be. Felix Hernandez saw his ERA+ fall off a cliff when he got there, and he hasn’t been over 108 since. Cole Hamels passed that mark last year, and his ERA+ went from 137 to 112 last year. On the other side, really wasn’t much of a problem for Justin Verlander last year, when he got through that mark. Same goes for Zack Greinke last year. Again, we saw a bit of a dip from Jon Lester last year, and he passed the 2,500 total innings mark during that season. Adam Wainwright was awful last year, the season he passed 2,500 total innings.
If the Cubs are using that as some sort of marker, and I have no idea if they are, that means you’re getting about two more seasons out of Darvish before that effect comes into play. If it’s a real thing or not, but it might be and that’s enough to give anyone pause. Even a four-year deal might have two bad years on the end of it.
Lester might be a fair comparison for Darvish. Except when Lester hit free agency he was in a much better spot than Darvish. He was coming off a season with a 2.80 FIP and 158 ERA+. He had been in the 130-range of ERA+ and low 3.00s for FIP before that. Darvish is coming off a 3.83 FIP and 118 ERA+ season. So he’s not roaring into it. The season before that saw a 134. So he’s been good, just hasn’t quite hit the heights of fire agents before. His career high ERA+ of 145 has been bested by Lester three times, though one was last year after he signed a free agent deal.
Which makes me wonder what price the Cubs have in mind for Darvish. He comes in with more tread on the tires. He hasn’t been quite as effective as Lester when they shelled out for him, though he’s been good. He might be nearing a watershed moment in his career. But then again, if Alex Cobb is asking for $20 million, maybe you’re fine paying Darvish some $22 or whatever. But you shouldn’t be paying him as much as Lester, even if the markets now are different. Then again, Alex Cobb’s ’13 and ’14 saw him with ERA+s of 139 and 133, which has been about where Darvish has been. It’s not quite as different as you’d think, but there’s a larger sample size with Darvish.
From where I sit I’d be tempted to see if the market continues to bottom out on Darvish. There’s a limit to what the Twins are going to offer you’d have to think, the Astros don’t need him, and the Rangers probably aren’t all that interested. The Dodgers and Yankees are staying out of it, at least until the price gets really low. Maybe Philly looks to throw some money around, but, but they’re a year or two away. The Brewers? Again, there’s a ceiling to the money they can offer.
Darvish’s name is exciting. It just might not be what you think. It’s still good, it’s just not a real doomsday weapon arriving.