This article is one in a series that uses the FantasyLabs Tools to build daily fantasy scouting reports for MLB’s brightest stars.
Based on what he did in his first season after Tommy John surgery, Yu Darvish is not human. Essentially defying all odds, Darvish came back from one of the most dreaded surgeries for a pitcher and put up some incredible numbers in 100 innings pitched after missing the entire 2015 season.
Coming over from Japan in 2012, Darvish signed a six-year, $60 million deal in which the Texas Rangers had to submit a posting bid for the right even to negotiate with him. Since he has entered the league, he has been one of the most dominant pitchers in MLB. Over his career, he has posted a +4.91 FanDuel Plus/Minus and a 64 percent Consistency Rating, both of which are elite (per our Trends tool):
In just his fourth season in the Majors — despite turning 30 in August — Darvish put together an impressive season:
In 2016, Darvish put up his lowest average points per game, but his +6 Plus/Minus and 76 percent Consistency Rating were the highest of his career. Clearly, FanDuel underestimated Darvish’s about to bounce back after his surgery.
Based on a monthly breakdown of Darvish’s career, it is obvious that he comes out of the gate firing. In April, Darvish posts his highest average points per game as well as his highest monthly Plus/Minus. However, you will notice that his performance steadily declines over the summer. In the following three months, not only does Darvish show a consistent decrease in average points per game (going from 45.0 in April down to 36.07 in July), but his Plus/Minus shows a steady decline as well: In July, he’s historically been at his worst, posting a negative Plus/Minus.
Notably, Darvish has considerably rebounded in August, posting his second-best Plus/Minus — perhaps due to drop in price after his poor July — only to follow that up with a poor September. It’s possible that the August spike in production is due to the small break that Darvish gets in mid-July for the All-Star break. Despite being selected to the All-Star Game three times, Darvish has been able to rest during this time, pitching in only one game and facing just three batters.
Athletes often perform much better at home, perhaps because they’re familiar with their surroundings, aren’t travelling and staying in hotels, etc. Although Globe Life Park in Arlington is friendly to hitters, Darvish has been better than on the road:
It’s notable that his home/away Plus/Minus differential is higher than his average points differential. Not only has Darvish pitched better at home, but he’s also been cheaper at home.
The difference between how Darvish performs in and out of division is staggering:
In 100 career starts he has played 48 divisional games and 52 non-divisional games. Perhaps Darvish’s poor divisional results are due to the familiarity that AL West hitters have with him. Outside of division, though, Darvish is a borderline must-play option. With a +9.0 Plus/Minus and 78 percent Consistency Rating at just 6.1 percent ownership, he has tremendous upside. (During the season, be sure to monitor ownership trends across tournaments of various stakes via our DFS Ownership Dashboard).
Darvish has an incredible Plus/Minus as an underdog — but he’s been a Vegas dog just three times in his career. That stat’s incredible, but it’s not highly actionable.
Vegas Score: 0-80
When Darvish doesn’t have an elite Vegas Score, he smashes value with almost a 70 percent Consistency Rating.
With a salary-implied expectation of only 36.14 points and a past ownership rate of just 12.7 percent, Darvish has historically offered strong value in this situation.
Vegas Score: 80-100
When Darvish has an elite Vegas Score, he outperforms his average expected points and has a Consistency Rating above 50 percent — but his performance does decline:
On top of that, his ownership in such situations has been unbelievably high. Given his past production and ownership, Darvish is a strong fade candidate as a heavy favorite, as contrarian as that may seem.
Darvish has a diverse set of pitches. While he has four that he uses at least 10 percent of the time (4-seamer, 2-seamer, slider, and cutter), he will mix in a sinker and change-up from time to time.
Darvish has an absolutely disgusting slider, which he has thrown about 27 percent of the time and the career numbers for which are highlighted in the graphic above.
Here are Darvish’s numbers with the slider broken out by year:
As you can see, after doubling the usage of his slider from his first to second season, he has used the pitch less for the last two years.
It is worth noting that Darvish missed the entire 2015 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, which could explain why his usage declined even more from 2014 to 2016.
There are some interesting velocity numbers pre- and post-TJ surgery:
Not one pitch has decreased in velocity. Some have even increased — his slider by almost two miles per hour. As noted earlier, Darvish is simply not human.
Everybody knows how good Darvish has been in his career, but the Tommy John surgery left some uncertainty moving forward. His first season after surgery has that eliminated doubt. This season, Darvish is a strong candidate to be rostered early in the campaign, especially outside of division.