How will Yu Darvish fare in his return to the rotation?
In his first three Major League seasons, Japanese import Yu Darvish dazzled hitters in the AL West and beyond, allowing just 434 hits against 680 strikeouts in 545.1 innings to the tune of a 3.27 ERA and 3.17 FIP. His walk totals were a little high – 218 in that time span – but his BB/9 was steadily improving, dropping from 4.2 to 3.4 in his first two seasons and then again to 3.1 in 2014. Unfortunately for Rangers fans, Darvish battled “inflammation” in his elbow late in 2014 and was limited to just five second-half starts. After just one spring training appearance in 2015, Darvish left with discomfort in that same elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery in March to repair the damage.
Coming off a surgery as major as Tommy John, Rangers fans naturally are worried about Yu’s ability to return to the stellar form he was in before the injuries. Often times, a pitcher’s velocity will return or even increase after Tommy John, but the command and control may be a bit harder to find. This could be a positive or negative thing, depending on your attitude. You may be able to argue that Darvish’s game plays off of his incredible repertoire of pitches and not his ability to command the ball, so a bit of a setback in command may not limit him all that much. Alternatively, you may argue that Darvish may regress in his ability to throw strikes after improving that ability from 2012-14, making him less effective overall. Regardless, the way Darvish responds to pitching in the majors for the first time since August 9, 2014 will be key to the 2016 Rangers’ success.