Monday Night Showdown: Yu Darvish vs. Jake Arrieta

Okay, so maybe my previous post regarding the Cubs being “back” might have been a little premature, and the shade that I threw at the entire town of Cincinnati for their chili might be deemed unwarranted for some. 

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Okay, so maybe my previous post regarding the Cubs being “back” might have been a little premature, and the shade that I threw at the entire town of Cincinnati for their chili might be deemed unwarranted for some. I’m not saying I was wrong. I’m saying that the baseball gods were obviously upset at my cockiness and the Cubs losing a series to the Reds is their way of keeping my ego in check. So rather than dwelling on losing a best-of-three against an inferior baseball team, I’d like to revert to much simpler times like the time Jake Arrieta no-hit the Dodgers and Reds on the road and to preview tomorrow night’s much-anticipated matchup between Arrieta and Yu Darvish on Monday Night Baseball.

Flashback to 2015 where baseball writers were comparing Jake Arrieta’s legendary Cy Young season to the likes of Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Clayton Kershaw. His second half of the 2015 season was so incredible that it brought us back to the Dead Ball Era:

Absolutely staggering numbers. Arrieta broke more bats with his cutter in that stretch than I’m sure his opponents are willing to admit. Just take a look at how filthy his stuff was when he threw his first no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers:

Up above is Jake Arrieta tossing his first no-hitter.

His stuff was unhittable that night. The opponent was no slouch, either. That was a 92-win Dodgers team right there that he left humbled. If those pitches were coming at me, I’m pretty sure I’d quit baseball. And his dominance continued when he took on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a one-game playoff game at a hostile PNC Park. With ice water in his veins, Jake’s response to Pirates Nation on Twitter before the game was classic:

That night, he proceeded to shut out the 98-win Pirates in a complete game with 11 K’s without walking a single batter. It’s not a fact that he was that good. It’s the fact that he knew he was that good, and that left the opposition scared (s)hitless. (Pun intended, the Pirates had five hits that night.) He was dialed in on the mound, and it reinforced that he was going to deservedly win the National League Cy Young Award.

The following season, it was obvious that baseball fans across the world were eager to see what Jake the Snake could bring to the table in 2016.  And in just his fourth start, he grabbed the rock and force-fed the Reds some Skyline Chili served up Arrieta-Style. The second no-no of his career in just six months. More filth below:

CHC@CIN: Arrieta tosses no-hitter vs. Reds

Which produced this gem from the Los Angeles Dodgers social media team:

CINCINNATI, OH – APRIL 21: Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after the final out after throwing a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 21, 2016, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Chicago defeated Cincinnati 16-0. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

He continued to motor through the rest of the 2016 regular season, and he eventually went on to lead the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years. He continued to prove he wanted the ball in his glove during the big games and went 2-0 in the 2016 World Series.

Signs of Decline

The 2017 campaign turned out to be a much different story for Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs. His season was full of ups and downs. When his pitching was on, it looked like the 2015 Cy Young winner that Cubs fans fell in love with. But more often than not, he looked like a shell of his former self and began to struggle with his command leaving Cubs fans wondering about their ace’s future. His final three seasons as a Cub:

After the Cubs were eliminated in five games by the Dodgers, Theo Epstein was forced to make a tough decision to not renew his contract. 32-year old Arrieta went on to sign with the Phillies a 3-year $75 million contract – $30 million in the first year, $25 million in the second, and $20 million in the third – with an opt-out in 2019.  Faced with a major hole in the starting rotation, Theo had to be aggressive and was able to snag Yu Darvish at 6 years for $126 million. Cubs fans were eternally grateful for everything Jake Arrieta brought them, but they couldn’t help but feel ecstatic about the new stud right-hander they just signed for the 2018 season.

The Yu Darvish Story

Before I jump into comparing Jake the Snake, I feel it is appropriate to paint the picture to who Yu Darvish was before he donned Cubbie Blue. Yu Darvish has had a very interesting MLB career, to say the least. He finished third place for the Rookie of the Year voting, four times he was voted to the All-Star Game and twice he found himself in contention for the Cy Young Award early in his MLB career. And who could forget his spectacular Opening Day performance in 2013 for the Texas Rangers? He went from “Who the hell is this guy” in 2012 to a household name in a hurry.

Darvish takes a perfect game into the ninth.

Just dominant stuff from the right-hander and in his sophomore season led the MLB in strikeouts with 277. But after his lights out first two seasons, injuries began to plague his young career which eventually led to Tommy John Surgery, causing him to be sidelined for the entire 2015 season.

After extensive rehab, Yu had a very good comeback season in 2016 bringing a 3.41 ERA to the table, but his usage was way down from years prior. It wasn’t until the 2017 season where he really returned to full form, especially toward the tail end of the season in a Dodgers uniform.

Stats via http://www.baseball-reference.com

Cubs Land Yu Darvish in Free Agency

After the departure of Jake Arrieta, Cubs fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief at the start of 2018 with the Yu Darvish acquisition. With Yu in the rotation, the one could argue that the Cubs’ starting pitching would be the most feared in baseball. This all sounded good in theory, but Darvish had a disappointing start. He began his Cubs career giving up 5 earned runs in 4 innings in his first start vs. Miami and he got destroyed in Colorado aka Bomb City serving up nothing but meatballs… three homers in 4.1 innings pitched. Hardly the $25 million pitcher the Cubs imagined. After missing a start in May, he missed the remainder of the 2018 season with elbow soreness, the same injury that plagued him in 2015. He opened up about his injury on his personal blog:

Seriously, who could hate this guy the way that he opened up to his fans? There was not a single excuse in there, and he has rehabbed and battled through adversity through a big portion of his MLB career. I am a Darvish fan as a person, and the guy will do everything he can to win over the North Side.

So which team won the deal, the Cubs or Phillies?

At the time of the deal, I would say advantage Cubs. These two signed pretty similar deals with their respected ball clubs. One had an opt-out, one didn’t. On one hand, you can’t argue that Arrieta’s accomplishments as a Cub didn’t outweigh anything Yu has done. Cy Young, World Series Champion, clutch in high-pressure situations, and a better beard. On the other hand, Yu Darvish’s 2016 and 2017 seasons looked like he was trending toward a rejuvenated career, and despite getting shelled in the 2017 World Series he still had impressive postseason numbers. You have a great pitcher locked up for long-term with less money against the salary cap, and he’s a year younger.

Now let’s take a look at what the two have done since:

Yu Darvish – Chicago Cubs – 6-years $126 million (Year 1 $25M, Year 2 $20M, Year 3 $22M, Year 4 $22M, Year 5 $19M, Year 6 $18M)

Darvish’s 2019 game-by-game results as of May 19, 2019:

Jake Arrieta – Philadelphia Phillies – 3 years $75 million (Year 1 $30M, Year 2 $25M, Year 3 $20M)

Arrieta’s 2019 game-by-game results as of May 19, 2019:

At the end of the day, Darvish’s injury is why the Phillies are winning the player currently, but overall the Cubs will win this contract if Darvish can stay healthy. Arrieta’s career has been on a steady decline since 2016. His biggest enemy is Father Time, and if Yu Darvish can continue to string together quality outings, I like the Cubs in this one.

One thing I do want to see from Yu is getting back the ability to pitch deeper into ball games. The last time he pitched 7 innings or more was September of 2017, and he hasn’t pitched a complete game since he had Tommy John Surgery. It would be great to see him get back in a rhythm and get some confidence back in his body.

Darvish vs. Arrieta 1

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

Ladies and gentlemen, in the great words of Jim Ross we have a slobber knocker tomorrow night! Now here’s a pitching matchup that I can’t wait to see at 7:05 PM. This game is almost poetic for several reasons. For one, I will forever be a Jake Arrieta fan and it’s awesome to see him on the mound again at the Friendly Confines, regardless of his affiliation with the Phillies. Secondly, Darvish is coming off two good starts against the Marlins and the Reds. It will be interesting to see if he’s gained any momentum going into this one. One game won’t put a close on the debate, but it will definitely be fun to see it play out at the national level on ESPN.

“He’s a legend in Chicago for sure.” Darvish said of Arrieta.

“I respect that. And I’m really looking forward to facing him.”

Chicago Sun Times

The wind will be blowing in from the north on a chilly night in Wrigley tomorrow night. Let’s hope for a pitcher’s duel.

Note: Bryce Harper has never faced Yu Darvish in his entire eight-year career.

Follow me on Twitter at @freddievedder19 for more Cubs takes.


Featured Photo: Chicago Tribune

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