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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 12:16 PM

Easily the most mysterious player in Major League Baseball entering the 2012 season was Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers. He was a phenom in Japan. But, so was Daisuke Matsuzaka, and nobody’s excited about him any more. The Rangers spent an arm and a leg to get Darvish, basically gambling that he could be the ace of a World Championship team.

Halfway through Darvish’s first season in the US, there’s still not much certainty about the impact he’s going to play in this sport. He’s clearly a quality pitcher. He was even voted onto the All-Star team this year in a special fan vote even though his stats don’t support that choice (he ranks 14th in starting pitcher ERA this year without showing much of a home/road split…and usually about only half that make the All-Star team as starters).

Is he an ace? Is he a middle of the rotation innings muncher? Let’s see what we’ve learned so far.

Darvish took over C.J. Wilson’s spot in the rotation after Wilson left via free agency to join the Los Angeles Angels.

Wilson (this year): 2.43 ERA, 1.15 WHIP

Wilson (last year): 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP

Darvish (so far): 3.59 ERA, 1.36 WHIP

Darvish is well behind Wilson this season, and isn’t measuring up to what Wilson gave the Rangers back in 2011 either. So, we can’t say Darvish is an ace caliber pitcher at this point. Too many walks for that. And, he’s still prone to allow more runs than you’d expect from the top man on your team even if he is getting a boatload of strikeouts.

Where does Darvish rate amongst Rangers starters this year?

Harrison: 3.10 ERA, 1.24 WHIP in 17 starts

Lewis: 3.51 ERA, 1.08 WHIP in 15 starts

Darvish: 3.59 ERA, 1.36 WHIP in 16 starts

No shame in being third best on a top team. But, Darvish was EXPENSIVE! The team is getting their money’s worth so far because he’s been winning games with run support…and because he helps pay for himself up front with merchandise sales here and overseas. Just remember that handicappers like you and us don’t get any kickbacks from guys selling jerseys! We want to know if Darvish offers value…and whether we should back him or fade him.

Complicating matters is something interesting we noticed about Darvish’s development this season. You may remember that he commented to the press very early on that he needs to spend time studying US hitters before he’ll be fully confident on the mound. He likes to attack a hitter’s weakness. He didn’t know their weaknesses right off the bat. Check this out:

 

BATTING AVERAGE ALLOWED

April: .238 in 5 starts

May: .231 in 5 starts

June/July: .215 in 6 starts

 

STRIKEOUT TO WALK RATIOS

April: 33 to 17

May: 33 to 15

June/July: 51 to 18

That’s evidence of clear improvement for Darvish in two very important areas. Opponents are having more trouble now getting hits off him than they were in his first month. And, the K/BB ratio really picked up beginning in June. If Darvish IS learning the hitters, his second half may be stronger than the first because those trends continue, or they at least stabilize in an area that was better than what we saw in April and May.

Pay close attention to Darvish tonight in Seattle against Felix Hernandez. Darvish has had surprising troubles with Seattle in his first two tries against them. Let’s see if he’s learned from those mistakes. Given the fact that Texas already has a 90% chance of making the playoffs…and the certainty that Darvish will pitch in the postseason barring an injury…handicappers will be well served to get the best read on him as possible in these early starts after the break.

The best handicappers in the business have posted their Saturday gems. Today’s highlights:

*Kelso Sturgeon has a 100-Unit SOLID GOLD play that’s available for just $20. Be sure you take care of business before the early games start just in case the biggest grading of the day from the Dean of Sports Handicappers goes in a day game.

*Jim Hurley has posted a TRIPLE CROWN of BLUE RIBBON showcase games. Pay just $15 for the report, which means only five bucks a pick! Hurley’s BLUE RIBBON games are on a 14-5 run heading into today.

*Jim Feist has a rare 25-STAR release going in Saturday action. Pay just $20 for this legend’s first major release of the second half of the season.  

Be sure you remember to check the ads on the home page every day for big play blockbusters now that baseball is back in session. Complete details on each industry legends’ slate are available on the “buy picks” pulldown. Many are offering early-bird specials for football season as well. The Hall of Fame Game that kicks off the NFL Preseason is just a few weeks away.

Hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!

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