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Evaluating Yu Darvish’s 2021 season

A season that started out great ended in disappointment

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The San Diego Padres entered the 2021 season with the best rotation in baseball, according to FanGraphs. A big reason for that was Yu Darvish, who came over in the offseason in a trade with the Chicago Cubs.

Darvish started out the season pitching like the ace A.J. Preller traded for but he couldn’t keep it up in the second half of the season. If there was one word I could use to describe Darvish’s first season in a Padres uniform, it would be disappointing.

Darvish echoed this sentiment on Saturday. “I feel like I couldn’t meet the expectations,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “I think I started out okay, pretty good, but things kind of didn’t go the way I wanted to after the All-Star break. So, all in all I feel like I couldn’t really meet the expectations.”

A big reason why it was disappointing was because he was living up to the hype early on, so fans expected him to continue doing so all year long.

Darvish’s splits don’t look anything alike, which isn’t good news at all. In the first half of the season, Darvish pitched to a 3.09 ERA, allowing 36 runs in 18 starts. However, in the second half, Darvish’s ERA soared to 6.16, allowing 42 runs in 12 starts. In other words, Darvish gave up more runs in the second half in six fewer starts than he did in the first half.

In no way am I saying that Darvish was the main reason why the Padres collapsed in the second half but he certainly wasn’t keeping the team in games. He went a stretch of nine starts from April 6 to May 23 where he allowed two or fewer runs in each start. Fast forward a few months later from July 3 to September 13, he allowed four or more runs in eight of those 11 starts.

Part of the reason why Darvish struggled in the second half would be injury. He might not admit it but it has to be difficult to pitch to your highest ability when you’re dealing with hip and back issues like Darvish had to deal with.

Darvish said Saturday he will be resting and then rehabbing to get his hip healthy before Spring Training:

There’s no doubt Darvish can get back to pitching like the ace he is but his first season in San Diego was underwhelming, especially considering how strong he started.