When you’re playing for a World Series title, one of the last things going through your mind is your impending free agency.
The long-term ramifications and enhanced financial stability of a fresh Major League Baseball contract are significant, but mere afterthoughts in a quest for the Commissioner’s Trophy.
In the case of Yu Darvish, nothing is different. In the Japanese pitcher’s two World Series starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he focused solely on the task at hand, not the January worries of a dwindling starting pitcher market. That line of thinking — and, of course, his performance — did the 31-year-old no good.
In Darvish’s Game 3 and Game 7 starts, the breaking ball specialist totaled just 3.1 combined innings, yielding nine hits, eight earned runs, and two walks.
In two Fall Classic appearances, Darvish failed to strike out a single batter. It is in no way fair to say the Dodgers fell to the Houston Astros because of Darvish, but he did not help their cause with his 0-2 record and 21.60 ERA.
It’s seemingly for this reason why the former Cy Young Award finalist remained a free agent amid a scorching December hot stove, and still seeks a contract going into mid-January.
The question of “how can we trust a starter who imploded on the biggest stage” delays any deal Darvish might be offered, especially in a market littered with better options for second and third rotation arms.
At the same time, maybe too big of a deal is being made of his championship shortcomings. MLB organizations interested in Darvish should try not to hang their hat on a dismal Series, and instead overlook it.
Darvish had previously been one of the most consistently valuable pitchers in the majors. In his career with the Texas Rangers, Darvish posted a 52-39 record with an ERA of 3.42 – any team would love a middle of the rotation option with those numbers.
Even prior to the World Series, Darvish had been rock solid as a Dodger, going 11.2 postseason innings and allowing just two earned runs while compiling 14 Ks.
In the later parts of the regular season, Darvish was steady behind Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, tossing 11 strikeouts per nine innings with a 4-3 record for a team that slumped heavily down the stretch.
To crucify Darvish for an unbelievably hitter-friendly World Series is silly. Proven aces like Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel, as well as All-Star relievers Kenley Jansen and Ken Giles, struggled to get settled in at times in such a high-scoring, home run-loaded seven-game set.
It didn’t help Darvish that the Astros’ high-octane offense was a pitcher’s nightmare that postseason. Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and others fell victim to Houston bats.
For whatever reason, Darvish isn’t getting the benefit of the doubt, unlike the aforementioned names above. His experience is there, his pedigree in terms of overcoming adversity is there (Darvish has undergone Tommy John surgery and worked tirelessly to return), and his ability to manage games is there too.
Darvish was abysmal in the World Series, and it’s reasonable for contenders to be concerned. But to rest all opinions of a reliable, experienced hurler like Yu on just two games is asinine. If I were sitting in a general manager’s spot right now, I’d be making a call to Darvish’s camp.