Cubs Insider

Darvish on possible Cy Young race: 'I don't care'

Cubs Insider
USA Today

It’s been seven years since Yu Darvish received a Cy Young vote.

Just 13 months ago, he had a 4.99 ERA in 26 starts as a Cub.

But as the Cubs’ $126 million right-hander reached the halfway mark in this short, wild ride of a baseball season, he not only represents the Cubs’ best chance to win a playoff series but he probably leads any watch list for the National League Cy Young Award over the final month.

“I don’t want to think about that,” Darvish (5-1) said after pitching seven more powerful innings in a 2-1 victory over the White Sox on Sunday. “I don’t care.”

That’s OK. We can think about it for him.

And everybody else on the field can care about what another five — or eight — weeks of this version of Darvish might mean.

“What he did out there today was spectacular,” said Kyle Schwarber, whose two-run homer in the sixth was the difference on a day that Darvish limited the Sox to one Jose Abreu homer after watching Abreu lead an 11-homer assault against Cubs pitching the previous two days, with five of his own.

Darvish, who took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning two starts ago, might have been even better on this day, if only because of what the Sox hitters had done to other pitchers during their seven-game winning streak — including Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs bullpen Friday and Saturday night.

“Every [contending] ballclub has that type of guy, right?” Cubs manager David Ross said. “The teams that are going to have success, you need those guys that you feel like it’s ‘Win Day.’ We’ve got a couple of those guys. Yu has been at the top of that list here lately.”

 

He’s at or near the top of a lot of other lists league-wide.

Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer has a better ERA (0.68) and WHIP (0.57) in fewer (four) starts. Atlanta’s Max Fried is unbeaten with a better ERA (1.32) in the same number of starts. And two-time defending Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom of the Mets is off to another strong start (2-0, 1.93 with 35 strikeouts and just five walks in five starts).

But six starts into what’s likely a 12-start season, Darvish leads the NL in pitching WAR per at least one site and in strikeouts to walks (44-6), and he’s among the leaders in ERA (1.70), WHIP (0.92) and innings (37).

A week after turning 34, he has never looked better in his career.

“I feel weird,” he said. “Most people when you get old, you lose velo and a lot of stuff, but I feel really good, more than when I was 25, 26. So I feel weird.”

Whatever has led him to his personal fountain of youth, the Cubs have never needed it more, with questions at the back of the rotation, in the bullpen and in their ability to do much about either at the Aug. 31 trade deadline given the uncertainty of pandemic-related issues.

“Every time out, it’s a lengthy outing. It’s executed. It doesn’t matter the lineup, he pitches his game, and has electric stuff,” said Ross, who called the fastball that reached 98 on an inning-ending strikeout of Yoan Moncada in the fifth “explosive today.”

“It’s important to have those guys if you want to win,” Ross said.

On this day it made him a much-needed stopper to help the Cubs salvage a 5-6 homestand — during which he won three of those games.

By the time they face the Cardinals and Brewers next month it might make him the ace that helps cinch a division. And if MLB is able to navigate the perils and pitfalls of COVID-19 into October, he’s the best chance they have to advance for even a round or two.

“Facing him in spring and summer camp — Let’s just say I’m happy he’s on our team,” Schwarber said. “When he’s got that 11-pitch arsenal or whatever it is and he’s in the zone, it’s just filthy. It’s nasty.

“No one’s looking forward to facing Yu Darvish.”

Darvish made four All-Star teams with the Rangers in the American League, three before he had Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in March 2015. He received Cy Young votes his first two seasons after leaving a decorated career in Japan for the majors, most recently when he finished second to Detroit’s Max Scherzer in 2013.

If there was an All-Star game this year, he might be starting for the National League.

 

He’ll settle for the playoffs. Maybe even a significant place in the Cy Young conversation by then.

Just don’t expect him to join the discussion.

“I feel like I have confidence right now,” he said. “I feel really good. Especially today, I had a lot of power in my body. But I was not thinking about the past or my numbers. Just focusing on each pitch.”

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