What You Need to Know: For months, Cubs fans had longed for their brand-new half-Iranian, half-Japanese, 6-foot-5 righty, whose stuff is often described as “sexy”, to make his first start as a Cub. Alas, it went poorly and they were left disappointed, like kids on a Saturday night waiting for bae to come over while both of the parents are gone, only to see the mom come home three hours earlier than expected.
Unless the mom was in attendance for the Cubs-Marlins game, which went to the extras for the second consecutive night. The good news is that it didn’t go 17 innings, and the Cubs won this time, when Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant delivered clutch tenth inning hits.
The Next Level: More on the suboptimal Darvish outing. Throughout the evening, he lacked command on the slider, his bread-and-butter pitch. Despite its sharpness diminishing from early in his career, opposing hitters combined to have a pedestrian .202 on the pitch last year.
According to Brooks Baseball, Darvish post-Tommy John has essentially been a four-pitch pitcher: four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, and slider, to go with occasional curves. That’s the exact way he pitched in his Cubs debut, except he didn’t throw even a single curve.
But when he can’t locate his slider, things can go south quickly, as they did tonight. As great a pitcher as Darvish is, he’ll still have days like this on down the road. To minimize the margin of error, it is necessary for him to (re)-develop the feel for off-speed stuff. Otherwise, he’ll keep turning Cubs Twitter into a hell-verse some nights.
Top WPA Play: Anthony Rizzo’s fifth-inning, two-run single (an error on the play scored another) bumped the Cubs’ win probability up 30.6%.
Bottom WPA Play: With his eighth-inning RBI single, Bryan Holaday lowered the Cubs’ win probability 32.6% and shattered Cubs fans’ collective sanity into pieces.
Lead photo courtesy Steve Mitchell—USA Today Sports