Notes on Darvish’s Latest Brush with History

yu darvish rangers

Yu Darvish made history last night — just not the kind that he and the 45,392 fans holding their collective breath at Arlington had hoped for. The Rangers ace lost his no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth inning, with Boston’s David Ortiz trickling a ground ball just past a shifted Rougned Odor in shallow right field. Darvish, who also missed a Nolan Ryan Special (and a perfect game) by one out last April against Houston, joined Dave Stieb as the only Expansion-Era pitchers to have two no-hitters broken up during the ninth inning.

No-hitters are sexy. They grab all the headlines, and they dominate the conversation — Can you believe Darvish got so close yet again? Should he have actually lost the no-hitter in the seventh on that fly ball dropping between Odor and Alex Rios? But Darvish’s outing against the Sox — 8.2 innings pitched, 12 Ks, two walks, one hit — was better than plenty of no-hitters tossed in MLB history. Darvish had a 92 Game Score last night — slightly above the average for all actual no-hitters (91.2) and beating out 88 pitcher outings immortalized in the record books, according to data from Baseball-Reference.

How did Darvish take down the Sox during his Stiebian start? Here’s a closer look.

  • While Darvish typically throws a bushel of different pitches, he simplified his repertoire against Boston. Darvish tossed his fastball (61%) and slider (28%) almost exclusively, sprinkling in an occasional cutter (9%) or curveball (2%). Every one of Darvish’s dozen strikeouts came on a fastball (5 Ks) or a slider (7 Ks).
  • Sox hitters froze up against Darvish’s fastball. They swung at just one-third of the heaters they saw last night, and as a result Darvish got a whopping 22 called strikes on the pitch. Yu made it a point to extend the outside corner versus left-handed hitters:

Darvish’s called strikes on fastballs vs. Boston, 5/9/2014

  • Boston wasn’t nearly as bashful versus Darvish’s slider, taking a cut about 57% of the time. Not like the more aggressive approach did much good: Darvish induced swings and misses 55% of the time with his slider.
  • Darvish’s stuff had a 30-plus MPH velocity range last night. He unleashed four 96 MPH fastballs at Xander Bogaerts (welcome to the bigs, rookie), but he also flipped a 62 MPH curveball that hugged the outside corner of the strike zone to Grady Sizemore, who flied out.