The Chicago Cubs finally added a marquee starting pitcher when they acquired free agent Yu Darvish on Saturday afternoon.
With Darvish in the fold, Chicago can roll out one of the most formidable rotations in all of baseball this season.
We know Darvish is good, but what makes him a special asset?
Darvish’s arsenal is huge, throwing as many as seven different pitches. The key is that each one is effective, with no standout weak link. His opponents’ batting average last season was .228, far and away the best of anyone on this season’s projected Cubs staff (Jose Quintana would be second with a .238 batting average against).
Take a look a this gif on Twitter from 670 The Score’s Matt Spiegel, showcasing all of Darvish’s pitches in his arsenal:
The greatest sports gif of all time. Yu Darvish's entire pitch arsenal, showcasing the consistently identical release point. pic.twitter.com/9u50hRDANE
— M@ (@MattSpiegel670) February 10, 2018
Right-handed batters, especially, struggle against Darvish. They hit just .194 against him last year with a .134 ISO. His career numbers against righties are even better: they’re hitting just .201 with the same ISO.
He does come with an elevated walk rate for his career at 8.9 percent, but he strikes out an elite 29.6 percent of batters faced. The raw strikeout numbers look good, too; he’s struck out over 200 batters three times in five seasons.
His career ERA and WHIP (3.42 and 1.18, respectively) both come in far better than the league average, and he’s had reasonable postseason success.
Of course, Darvish also comes with some potential downsides.
As previously noted, his postseason performance was good through the first four playoff starts of his career (3.52 ERA, .87 WHIP). Last year’s World Series, however, was an abject disaster for Darvish.
Tipping pitches was a problem against Houston, as Darvish allowed nine runs (eight earned) in just 3.1 innings in the World Series, losing both of his starts. Injuries also have to be a concern, considering Darvish missed all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery.
At 31 years old (he’ll turn 32 in mid-August) Darvish is still in his physical peak. With that in mind, it’s a safe bet that these numbers will stay consistent through at least the first several years of his six-year deal.
There’s a reason why Darvish was the top free agent on the starting pitcher market, and the stats back it up. Four all-star nods help add a bit to his credibility, too.
This season’s starting rotation for the Cubs will be some combination of Darvish, Quintana, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood. With four pitchers who could arguably be a team’s ace, it’s easily one of the game’s best staffs.
With Darvish aboard, the Cubs made the biggest free agent move of the offseason and solidified their place as the favorites in the NL Central at least, if not even more than that.