As many baseball fans are likely aware, strikeouts have been increasing steadily season after season, and 2021 is looking to be another record year. There are many speculations of why this may be, but San Diego Padres starting pitcher Yu Darvish is taking full advantage as his numbers keep rising.
The Beginning of Success
Yu Darvish’s career began in 2012 with the Texas Rangers, and he put the league on notice. In 29 starts, he finished with a 16-9 record. Even after 10 seasons, that was the best of his career. His rookie season saw him rack up 229 strikeouts, which is the third best of his career.
Darvish only got better as he moved into his second season. He finished 13-9 with 277 strikeouts, which led all of baseball. Darvish also led baseball with 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, which is 26th best all time.
After just under five strong seasons with the Rangers, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers to finish the 2017 season. After that, he was on the move again, this time to the Windy City to play for the Chicago Cubs.
His first season with the Cubs was plagued with injuries. He only made eight starts and recorded 49 strikeouts. Although he did not get much playing time, he was lucky enough to have joined a team which received plenty of attention. This brought him back to the spotlight.
After finishing with losing records the previous three seasons, Darvish was looking to bounce back in 2020. In the pandemic-shortened season, he finished with eight wins, which led all of baseball. In only 12 starts, he finished just shy of triple digit strikeouts, ending the season with 93. Darvish pitched so well that he was in contention for the Cy Young Award, but came up short to Trevor Bauer.
Although he has not been able to match the numbers of his first two seasons, since 2014 he has averaged 149 strikeouts per season.
Before the 2021 season, Darvish changed teams once again.
Darvish Making History
This season, Yu Darvish has become an ace for an extremely dominant San Diego Padres team. Darvish is one of three starting pitcher acquisitions for the team, and he has been the best pick-up by far. Through 15 starts he is 7-2, with a 2.50 ERA and 108 strikeouts.
Coming into the season Darvish was a mere 108 away from the career benchmark of 1,500 strikeouts. On Monday night, the Padres took on the Dodgers at home. Darvish took the mound. His 11th strikeout of the night was a history-making strikeout in multiple ways. It came in his 197th game, which made him the fastest pitcher in MLB history to reach this major milestone. He soundly passed the great Randy Johnson, who accomplished the feat in 206 games.
Better yet, Darvish accomplished the feat in the fewest number of innings than any other pitcher, at 1,216 1/3. That record was previously set in 2019 by the Washington Nationals Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg did it in 1,272 1/3 innings.
The National League West is one of the most difficult divisions in baseball, with the Dodgers and San Fransisco Giants. Despite their 43-32 record, the Padres sit in third place. As long as Yu Darvish continues to have quality outings with high strikeout numbers, the Padres will have a great chance to push their way into first as the season moves towards the second half.
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