From Comcast SportsNetSAPPORO, Japan (AP) -- Yu Darvish's desire to become the world's best pitcher prompted his decision to leave Japan and sign with the Texas Rangers. "I want to become the kind of pitcher that will make people say 'Darvish is the No. 1 pitcher in the world,'" Darvish said at a news conference on Tuesday. The 25-year-old right-hander agreed last week to a six-year contract with the Rangers guaranteeing him 56 million. Darvish had a 93-38 record with a 1.99 ERA in 167 games in the past seven seasons in Japan, where he was a two-time MVP of the Pacific League and a five-time All-Star. He led the league in strikeouts three times and ERA twice, and averaged 205 innings pitched over the last five seasons. Over 10,000 fans attended Tuesday's event at Sapporo Dome, where Darvish spent his entire professional career playing for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Early in his career, Darvish said he had no desire to go to Major League Baseball, saying it would be bad for Japanese baseball if all of the top players went overseas. But after seven seasons in Japan, Darvish said he needed a new challenge. "I want to feel the thrill of pitching against the world's best hitters," Darvish said. "It was becoming harder to stay motivated in Japan." There is a lot of excitement in Texas, where fans are hoping Darvish is the missing piece that will help lift the Rangers to their first World Series title.
Welcome back to "Who Knew?" - a roundup of fun facts, statistics & oddities. Today, we're looking at the last week of Cubs baseball. While they went a disappointing 3-3 on the road trip, there was plenty of interesting nuggets of information to be mined. Let's get started.
Time to go to school
On Tuesday, Kyle Hendricks had a brilliant outing at Cincinnati where he tossed 8 innings of one-run ball, allowing three hits. But he also collected three hits at the plate himself!
Cue the Carlos Zambrano trivia.
Hendricks was the first Cubs pitcher with a 3-hit game since Zambrano on May 26, 2011.
He was the first Cubs pitcher to get 3+ hits at the plate and allow 3 or fewer on the mound since Zambrano (8.2 IP, 3 Hits for, 3 against) 9/10/2010.
And Hendricks was the first Cubs starting pitcher to collect a hit in the 9th inning or later since Zambrano 9/25/2009... off Randy Johnson!
Back to the pitching for a minute - Hendricks started May with three straight starts of 8+ innings, 1 or 0 runs & 1 or 0 walks. He's the first Cubs pitcher to do that in three straight starts since Mike Krukow in September 1981.
While Hendricks' start Sunday night didn't go quite as well, he still came away with a win, and he added on to an impressive run (before it finally came to an end).
From the beginning of May through the third inning Sunday, these are the pitch counts by completed inning (not counting the one batter in the 9th inning on Tuesday he faced before being pulled): 10, 6, 8, 15, 9, 7, 7, 9, 10, 15, 11, 12, 6, 12, 19, 15, 6, 11, 15, 7, 9, 16, 11, 13, 10, 11, 9, 8
That's a run of 28 consecutive completed innings under 20 pitches. And in 12 of the 28 innings, he kept it in single digits.
He finally tossed 21 pitches to get through the 4th inning Sunday night to snap the streak.
And by the way, Hendricks has put up an excellent 3.21 ERA and solid 1.179 WHIP this season despite not reaching 90 MPH on any of the 799 pitches he has thrown this season (though he did hit 89.2, 89.2 and 89.1 Sunday night). His max this season has been 89.3.
Going to 11
Anthony Rizzo homered Sunday night to bring his season total to 11. That tied him with THREE OTHER CUBS for the team lead, joining Javier Báez, Willson Contreras & Kris Bryant.
By the way, the most home runs in which four teammates in a season had the same amount (that's a mouthful) is 27. By the 2018 Yankees. Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Didi Gregorius & Miguel Andújar all had exactly 27 home runs. But they didn't tie for the team lead! Giancarlo Stanton had 38.
Anyway, four Cubs have double digit home runs through 44 team games. And do you remember the last time they did that?
You do not. Because it never happened!
In fact, through 44 team games, these are the players with 10+ home runs during the Joe Maddon era:
2019 - 4 (Javier Báez, Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant & Anthony Rizzo)
2018 - 1 (Javier Báez)
2017 - 1 (Kris Bryant)
2016 - 1 (Anthony Rizzo)
2015 - 0
They haven't had two double digit guys through 44 games since 2008 (Derrek Lee & Alfonso Soriano). They haven't had three since 2004 (Sammy Sosa, Aramis Ramírez & Moises Alou). And they have never had four. The Cubs National League lineage dates back to 1876.
And fun sidenote: through 44 games in 1998, the Cubs team leader in home runs was Henry Rodríguez with 9. Sammy Sosa had 8 before finishing the season with 66.
On Friday night in the top of the 8th inning, Kyle Schwarber battled Kyle Barraclough until he finally homered on the 13th pitch of the at-bat. Pitch data is mostly complete to 1988. There are a few plate appearances for which we don't have pitch data. But of the at-bats that we do, it was the longest plate appearance to end with a Cubs home run since Gary Scott's April 20, 1992 grand slam off Kyle Abbott (also 13 pitches)
Bryant homers thrice
Kris Bryant homered three times on Friday. It was the second 3-homer game of Bryant's career.
According to STATS, Bryant was the 12th player in MLB history to homer in three consecutive innings (7th, 8th and 9th); the second (after J.D. Martinez) to homer in the 7th, 8th & 9th.
Bryant is the only Cub besides Sammy Sosa (3rd, 4th & 5th) on August 10, 2002 to homer in three consecutive innings.
He was the first Cub since Dave Kingman (May 17, 1979 - 40 years ago to the day) to homer off three different pitchers in the same game.
He is the second Cub ever to homer three times in a game with none coming off a starting pitcher, joining Adolfo Phillips on June 11, 1967 (Game 2 of doubleheader). In fact, in each of the last ten Cub three-HR games, the batter hit at least two home runs off the starter.
He was the first Cub ever to homer three times in a game in the 7th inning or later, though Dave Kingman on May 14, 1978 homered in the 6th, 9th and 15th inning of a game.
NBA Draft capital is incredibly expensive these days.
It's never been cheap, but the cost up moving up continues to cost teams a pretty penny without a surefire promise of return on their investment. This proves to be incredibly risky when considering trading in the top 5.
One year ago the Dallas Mavericks, who were picking fifth, wanted Slovenian point guard Luka Doncic. Knowing the Atlanta Hawks were eyeing a point guard, they put together a package that included the No. 5 pick and a top-5 protected first round pick the following season in order to move up two spots. It was a steep price, as the Mavericks wound up with the No. 10 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft that will convey to Atlanta.
Consider two seasons ago, when the Philadelphia 76ers traded the No. 3 pick and the Kings' 2019 first-round pick to move up to No. 1. That Sacramento pick wound up being the No. 14 selection thanks to the Kings' surprise season out West, but at the time it was an incredibly valuable asset that many thought would yield a top-10 pick. The Sixers drafted Markelle Fultz while the Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum. Two years later, Tatum looks like a budding star while the Sixers traded Fultz and his bag of issues to the Magic in February.
In 2009, the Timberwolves traded two key rotation pieces to the Wizards for the No. 5 pick. In hindsight, trading Randy Foye and Mike Miller for a top-5 selection doesn't seem like a lot. But consider that Foye was a 25-year-old coming off a 16.3-point season, while Miller was a 28-year-old with a career mark of 40.1% from beyond the arc and averages of 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists to his name. The price to move up to No. 5 and draft Ricky Rubio - which they did a day later - was steep.
In 2005, the Utah Jazz held the sixth pick in the draft but desperately wanted to move up to get Illinois point guard Deron Williams. On draft night, they sent the No. 6 pick, the No. 27 pick and a future first round pick (Detroit's in 2006, which wound up being No. 30) to move up three spots to No. 3. They were able to grab Williams, and the rest is history.
So if we take out the 2009 trade that didn't include any picks, here's the history of trades involving top 5 picks:
Get: No. 3 overall
Give: No. 5 overall, No. 10 overall the following season
Get: No. 1 overall
Give: No. 3 overall, No. 14 overall the following season
Get: No. 3 overall
Give: No. 6 overall, No. 27 overall, No. 30 the following season
It's not cheap. And as we can see, the cost to move up is getting pricier. The 2019 NBA Draft won't be any different. We know that picks Nos. 1 and 2 are off the table. The New Orleans Pelicans will select Duke's Zion Williamson and the Memphis Grizzlies will follow a few minutes later by taking Murray State point guard Ja Morant. It's also pretty safe to say that the New York Knicks will draft Duke's R.J. Barrett with the third pick.
It gets pretty fuzzy after that. Picks 4-14 are all pretty much in the same tier, to the point that including assets to move up in a class that will be a major dice roll would be tough to justify. Then again, maybe the price to move up to No. 4 or 5 isn't as substantial because there isn't a sure fire player the other team would be giving up by moving back in the first round. In 2005, it was obvious the Jazz were going hard after Williams or Wake Forest's Chris Paul. The Sixers wanted to move up to No. 1 to get Markelle Fultz, who as funny as it seems now, was the consensus top pick. And the Mavericks were clearly eyeing Luka Doncic after the Kings passed on him for Duke's Marvin Bagley.
This time around? It's tough to say. The Bulls need a point guard in the worst way and Vanderbilt's Darius Garland will likely be gone before the Bulls pick at No. 7. It'd behoove the Bulls to jump in front of Phoenix at No. 6; the Suns have similar needs to the Bulls and are in similar situations as far as their respective rebuild goes. But the Bulls aren't once piece away from contending, and none of the players they would go target at No. 4 or 5 would really move the needle next season. That's critical, because they'd almost certainly be including next year's first-round pick in any deal (let's be real and say Kris Dunn's trade value is essentially zilch). If the Bulls were to attach even a heavily protected first round pick, they'd need to be certain they were going to have on-court improvement in the coming years. This is still a team that won 22 games a season ago.
It's too early in the pre-draft process to consider which teams may move back, and who teams trying to move up would want to target. That will happen in the coming weeks. For now, just realize that moving up in the draft costs a whole lot, and you'd better hit on the pick if you're going to give up assets during a rebuild.