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Photo: John Antonoff/Chicago Sun-Times

Cubs

Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta Comparisons are Over

The debate needs to end. The Cubs made the right decision by signing Yu Darvish instead of re-signing Jake Arrieta.

Remember when everyone thought the Cubs should have re-signed Jake Arrieta?

There is no doubt Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have not hit the jackpot on every free agent signing they have made in the current winning window the Cubs are in, but it’s time to put the Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta comparisons to bed.

It’s over. VinceCarterDunkContest dot gif.

For those who will chime in saying this was never a discussion, please remember the internet never forgets.

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Listen.

I know Darvish was not good in 2018. He made eight starts. He was hurt. It was not a good look after signing a six-year deal with the Cubs, whom play in a major market where fans and media will absolutely crush you if you do not live up to your contract or hype. Arrieta finished 2018 with a 2.5 WAR while Darvish finished with a 0.3 WAR.

Lucky for Cubs fans, which includes me and my sarcastic tweets, Darvish’s contract is more than just one year.

I could tell you Arrieta currently has an earned run average north of six and was hurt the last month and a half of last season, and justify the Cubs completely dodging a bullet to their already high payroll. However, Darvish has simply out performed him since last season.

In 118.2 innings since July 17, 2019, Darvish has been the ace the Cubs hoped they were getting in the offseason before the 2018 season. In those 19 starts, Darvish has posted a 2.43 ERA, 162 strikeouts, 2.63 FIP, only 14 walks, a 35 percent strikeout rate, 3.0 percent walk rate, 1.06 BB/9 and 12.29 K/9.

Darvish’s 12.29 K/9, 1.06 BB/9, 162 strikeouts, 14 walks, 3.0 percent walk percentage and 35 percent strikeout percentage is the best in the NL during that time period. No one has more strikeouts. No one has less walks. Only Jack Flaherty, Jacob deGrom, Sonny Gray and Zach Gallen have a lower ERA. Only deGrom and Flaherty have a lower FIP.

If you’re unfamiliar with advanced metrics, take the fact he’s been better than deGrom, a back-to-back NL Cy Young award winner, in certain aspects of pitching.

Darvish has been carrying the Cubs pitching staff over the last two weeks after the rotation as a whole got off to a hot start. On August 4th, the Cubs entered that day in first place in BB/9 (2.10), earned run average (1.95), WHIP (0.78) and opponents batting average (.156).

That was just 12 games into the season. The Cubs staff was rolling. Since then, the Cubs rotation’s earned run average has increased to 3.89, putting them 6th in the NL and 10th in all of baseball.

Opponents batting average has rose to .246, still good for 6th in the NL but 13th in all of baseball. It’s a 60-game season, so small sample sizes are smaller than normal.

However, over the Cubs recent 6-11 stretch since starting 13-3, the starting rotation has been shaky and the increase in those numbers have stuck out. Darvish is the reason those numbers are still respectable.

Darvish has pitched less than five innings once in this short season and each of his quality starts over the last couple weeks have came at the right time when the Cubs need a win.

His best start of the season may have been against the scorching hot White Sox. The Southsiders were on the verge of sweeping the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the final game of a three-game series on August 23rd.

Darvish earned his paycheck that day, painting upper 90s fastballs on the edges for seven innings and finishing with 10 strikeouts. It was a big win for a struggling Cubs team that mustered enough offense for Darvish to grab the win.

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The Big Picture

Sure, Arrieta pitched all of the 2018 season and Darvish did not due to what was called a stress fracture when he was officially shut down in August of 2018. To this day, I’m not sure what was wrong with Darvish because he went on multiple rehab trips, pitched, and then would have a setback and no one would really understand what the setback was.

Darvish dealt with plenty of negative press in 2018.

He got labeled ‘soft’ thanks to a Los Angeles Times piece because of his performance with the Dodgers during the 2017 World Series. Alex Rodriguez said on a national broadcast that Darvish lost respect in the Cubs locker room because of his injury issues.

To top it off, the Cubs didn’t really negotiate a contract with Arrieta in the offseason, which caused negative attention to the Cubs because Arrieta’s importance during his tenure in Chicago and Darvish being sidelined. These three storylines had to have been in Darvish’s mind all the time during the 2018 season.

It was a tough road for Darvish in 2018. We knew it. He knew it. And that is why his resurgence is that much sweeter not only for him, but for the Cubs.

He came back in 2019, and despite getting off to a not so great start to the season, finished strong and was everything the Cubs had hoped for in the second half of the season. He’s carried that momentum into this season and finds himself in the NL Cy Young chase with Max Fried, deGrom, and Trevor Bauer.

After Fried allowed two runs to the Red Sox Monday evening, Darvish officially has an NL best 1.47 ERA. Darvish has 52 strikeouts, good for 4th best in the NL, and only six behind deGrom. He has a 1.00 WHIP, 8th best in the NL and tied with Fried, and he’s has allowed the least amount of walks out of the group.

He’s allowed six barrels all season. Barrels are defined as batted balls with an exit velocity that lead to a minimum of a .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage. To put it simply, no one is getting easy hard hits off Darvish.

It helps the Cubs are also in first place in their division. Fried and the Atlanta Braves are as well, but nonetheless, it’s an extra point that can be made for a potential Cy Young award winner.

Arrieta’s numbers have only gone in the wrong direction since leaving the Cubs. His ERA, FIP, WHIP, walk-rate, opponents batting average, and BB/9 have gone up each season he’s been in Philadelphia. His K/9 and opponents strikeout rate decreased, meaning less swings and misses.

The man will forever be a legend in Chicago because of his NL Cy Young season in 2015 and helping the Cubs finally win the World Series, but the contract comparisons should be over.

Arrieta could have opted out of his contract after the 2019 season and right now the Phillies probably wish he did.

Here at Cubs On Tap we praised Kyle Hendricks for his Opening Day complete game shut out. We debated for hours about who is the Cubs ace going into the 2020 season. It undoubtably is Darvish and it’s not even close right now.

The final month should be fun to watch. It’s a shortened season and in 10 years no one will care about who won individual awards in the year of our lord 2020, when seemingly it seemed like the world was falling a part, but that is in 10 years. This is reality and Darvish has helped Cubs fans step out of this terrible reality every fifth day this season.

Let’s enjoy it.


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