Saturday night was yet another reminder of why I like baseball and why Twitter is such an interesting way to discuss it.
Baseball has so many layers that when you start to peel them back, you get a ton of various opinions. The performance of Yu Darvish on Saturday was a prime example. His numbers were, like they've been all season, impressive. He went seven innings and gave up two runs (on an Adam Dunn homer) with 11 strikeouts and three walks. But in the end, it was a loss for the Rangers and a no-decision for Darvish.
Texas has not taken advantage of Darvish's starts. The Rangers are just 14-11 when Darvish toes the rubber, a shocking number considering his status as one of the top pitchers in the AL and the ace of this staff. Of the pitchers in the league with at least 12 wins, only two have fewer "team" wins than Darvish. That includes Felix Hernandez, who is getting half a run less of support, whose team still has 13 wins -- just one fewer than Darvish. By the way, Darvish is receiving 5.25 runs of support, good enough for top 25 in the big leagues.
Blame can certainly fall on several candidates, and it did on Twitter Saturday as knowledgeable baseball fans and media weighed in. The offense wasted some chances against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, and that hurt late when Tanner Scheppers came in and couldn't keep the score tied in the ninth, leading to the walk-off loss. But is Darvish to blame, too?
Yes, he is. And as Saturday night showed, there's plenty of debate as to how much blame he should accept.
Like it or not, Darvish is held to a higher standard. He's earned that place because of his immense talent. He leads the league in strikeouts and has figured out how to reduce his walks to the point at which he's even more dominant. Few pitchers in baseball have more effective pitches to choose from than Darvish. His slider might be the best in the game (I think it is), and you throw in his cutter, the various speeds on his curve and how he gets so much movement on the ball, and he's very difficult to hit.
I consider Darvish an ace, but to be mentioned consistently with Hernandez, Justin Verlander and other top pitchers in the AL, Darvish must win more of the close games. The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth on Saturday after both teams put up zeroes to that point. Darvish then gave those two runs back in the bottom half of the inning. Dunn's homer came on a good pitch, frankly. But Darvish had other pitches in that inning that weren't good, and he allowed a hit to make Dunn's shot the tying homer rather than a solo shot.
Is that nitpicking on Darvish? You bet it is. But that also shows how great he is. More is expected of him. That's the life of an ace. An ace gets a 2-0 lead against a last-place team on the road and finishes the job. An ace holds that lead and then turns it over to the bullpen, if necessary. That's the one part of Darvish's game that isn't quite there yet. We saw it against Seattle recently, too. Texas would score a run, and Darvish would very quickly give one back.
Don't get me wrong: Darvish is terrific. He's going to be a Cy Young candidate year in and year out, if he stays healthy. And Saturday proves he can still get even better. He'll learn to shut the other team down more consistently late in close games. When he does, he'll be collecting those Cy Young trophies. That's coming, if you ask me.
But to simply blame just the offense for Saturday isn't fair. No doubt, the bats didn't do Darvish many favors, but they did give him a two-run lead with 12 outs to go in the game, and, in the blink of an eye, it was gone.
Darvish, already on an extremely high level, has another level he can reach. He's got the stuff, the fight and the talent to do it. It's not easy. But is it fair to hold him to that standard? I think it is, based on what we've seen. He'll learn from starts like Saturday, and, come playoff time, he'll be even better for it.