Yu's a Finalist

Cy Young finalist Yu Darvish shows progress, but can the Rangers ace pitcher win?

Cy Young finalist Yu Darvish shows progress, but can he win?

Yu Darvish pitches for the Texas Rangers
Yu Darvish’s competition for the Cy Young is Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma and Detroit’s Max Scherzer. northjersey.com

Yu Darvish certainly made progress in 2013. He improved his earned run average. He threw more innings. He struck out more batters. He lowered his hits allowed per nine innings.

He even made progress in postseason awards. Darvish went from finishing ninth in American League Cy Young voting in 2012 to being a finalist for the Cy Young in 2013, meaning he’s among the top three vote-getters.

The progress is likely to stop there, though. You can make a case, but not an overwhelming one, for Darvish to become the first Japanese-born pitcher to win the Cy Young in either league.

Darvish led the AL in three categories in 2013 — strikeouts (277), strikeouts per nine innings (11.32) and opponent batting average (.194). His ERA of 2.83 was fourth in the AL. He ended up with 32 starts and finished with a 13-9 record. He came close to throwing two perfect games.

 Darvish was at times dominant. But he was not consistent.

Darvish was at times dominant. But he was not consistent.

He started the season 5-1 in April and looked like he might be on his way to a huge season. But his pace slowed down. In fact, Darvish won just eight games the rest of the season and only six games in the final four months.

His September was nothing to write home about. He went 1-3 as the Rangers were trying to crawl back into the AL Wild Card race. In a stretch from August 30 to September 14, Darvish was the pitcher of record in four-straight losses.

It's not the type of performance that you expect from a Cy Young winner, much less a staff ace.

Darvish’s competition for the Cy Young is Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma and Detroit’s Max Scherzer.

Iwakuma, another pitcher from Japan who is also in his second Major League season, went 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 33 starts. Iwakuma played on a poor Mariners team but managed to overcome that fact to become one of the league’s best pitchers. Like Darvish he improved on many of his 2012 numbers. But his record is similar to Darvish’s.

No the winner of the Cy Young this year — and frankly it shouldn’t be close — should be Scherzer, who had a career year. Scherzer went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 32 starts.

Scherzer’s 21 wins was best in the AL. He allowed less than one hit or walk per inning in 2013. Like Darvish, he was in double digits for strikeouts per nine innings (10.1). Like Darvish, Scherzer actually improved his win total from 2012. In fact it’s the fourth straight year Scherzer has improved his win total.

Plus, Scherzer threw well down the stretch, winning six of his final eight starts of the regular season and fueling Detroit’s push to the AL Championship Series.

Scherzer’s performance late in the season, more than anything else, puts him ahead of Darvish and Iwakuma. Pitchers don’t finish the season the way Darvish did and win this award.

All three are deserving. But Scherzer had the best season. There’s no question.

There’s also no question that Darvish is much closer to claiming baseball’s top award for pitchers entering the 2014 season. He needs some more offense to back him up. But if Darvish continues to progress next season it may finally lead him on that primrose path to baseball history.