There's been a lot of chatter this week about Yu Darvish and whether he has another level he can reach. Honestly, I don't think the debate about whether he's an ace is really much of a debate. I think he is one. But that doesn't mean he has reached his ceiling.
As we discussed on "Fitzsimmons & Durrett" this week, there's a level he hasn't reached, and that's the ability to more consistently shut down the opponent when his team gives him the lead late. Darvish didn't do that in his last start, and that's why it's fresh on the minds of many folks (including me, I'll admit) as he prepares to take the mound against the Minnesota Twins tonight. You can read my thoughts on that here.
But a funny thing happened this week while this debate was contested on Twitter, blogs and the talk shows: Other aces struggled worse than Darvish.
As we sit here today, getting set to enter September, I think Darvish's Cy Young prospects are getting better. Let me preface this with something, though. Max Scherzer is still likely in the driver's seat. But Scherzer showed some weaknesses this week when the Oakland A's touched him up for five runs on Thursday. He got a no-decision thanks to the heroics of Torii Hunter in the ninth.
A 19-1 record is difficult to ignore. Still, what about other numbers? How does Darvish stack up to the competition? Let's take a look:
Darvish has a 2.68 ERA in 25 starts. That's second in the AL among starters to the Tigers' Anibal Sanchez. But Darvish has one more win and has made two more starts than Sanchez this season. Darvish's ERA is even better than Scherzer's (2.90).
He leads the league in strikeouts at a whopping 225. That's 24 more than Scherzer, who has made two more starts (and pitched 15 more innings).
Darvish's ability to lower his walks is the biggest reason that he's stayed more consistent this season as opposed to last. He has 58 walks, which is high compared with his Cy Young competitors. But when you look at his strikeout rate and how many batters he walked last year (especially the first four months of the season), it's a vast improvement.
Darvish has a 4.5 WAR, which is fifth in the AL among pitchers. Scherzer and Felix Hernandez are ahead of him, but he's holding his own there.
If you take all of the numbers together, Darvish has put himself in that conversation with Scherzer. Hernandez's big plus was he had the ERA advantage. Thanks in part to Darvish's Rangers teammates, that's not the case anymore. Darvish has him beat in some other key statistical measures as well.
Sanchez has a slightly better ERA, but doesn't have as many innings or wins and a comparable WAR.
So while I'm as guilty as anybody this week of talking about how there's more in the tank for Darvish, he is still without question one of the top pitchers in the AL. The numbers show it. And after the struggles of Hernandez, Scherzer and Chris Sale recently, Darvish's standing for the Cy Young is improving.