MESA, Ariz. — What can the opposition in the National League expect when they face the Chicago Cubs‘ newest star pitcher? Yu Darvish‘s current teammates know all too well how Darvish can tie up a hitter after he shut them down in the NLCS last fall. Pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers at the time, Darvish struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings in a 6-1 victory in Game 3. The Dodgers went on to win the series 4-1, while Darvish opted to move on and sign with his former opponents.
The right-hander has a total of five games pitched in his career against the NL Central — none against the St. Louis Cardinals — giving him a leg up on the competition, at least according to Cubs hitters. They believe his famously wide arsenal of pitches will keep the division on its toes.
“The unique thing about him is his deception is off the charts, with how everything is coming out of the same slot,” left fielder Kyle Schwarber said. “It’s a very fluid motion to be coming out so hot. He has velocity and deception. That’s what makes him different. The repetitiveness is what impresses me, from the windup to the release point.”
Schwarber homered off Darvish in that playoff game, but that was all the offense the Cubs would muster. ESPN Stats & Information tracked usage of six different pitches from the righty last season, meaning teams that haven’t seen him won’t know what’s coming.
“He almost throws a Frisbee up there sometimes and has like eight different pitches,” shortstop Addison Russell said, shaking his head. “I’m just glad he’s on our side now.”
Said Jason Heyward: “He’s one of those pitchers that has the luxury of having velocity but can also make his pitches move — and in a lot of different directions. As a hitter, you have a lot of different things to cover.”
Trying to figure out what kind of pitch is approaching the plate was the most repetitive issue described by Cubs hitters. Guessing can be a difficult proposition.
“As a hitter, you want to focus on one pitch, usually a fastball, then react to everything else,” Heyward said. “With him, he has a lot of options, so it’s impossible to guess even if you try. A lot of things look similar.”
It’s why tipping pitches was such a prominent concern after a World Series in which he struggled. In Darvish’s case, tipping could benefit the hitter even more than against a typical pitcher.
“I don’t know,” said catcher Chris Gimenez, who worked with Darvish a few seasons ago while with the Rangers. “If you’re tipping but executing your pitches, that’s one thing. If you’re tipping and not executing, that’s a whole other thing. He wasn’t executing. I don’t know if he was or wasn’t [tipping].”
Whether or not he was tipping pitches in the playoffs, Darvish hasn’t had similar issues during the majority of his career — just mostly in those two Fall Classic games against the Houston Astros. The Cubs are banking on getting the guy who can make a hitter look silly.
“He knows how to pitch to weaknesses,” Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo said. “He knows how to stay on the corners, and from what I’ve heard, he’s a great teammate. I can’t wait to see him pitch for us instead of against us. That didn’t go well.”
www.espn.com – MLB