Through the endless swirl of rumors and speculation that currently surrounds the Rangers, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the guys they already have on the roster.
Despite the changes the Rangers' personnel will likely see in 2013, much of it needed, Nolan Ryan’s club still has a number of All-Stars and young talent ready to make a push for a world championship.
One name that comes to mind is Yu Darvish.
The Japanese phenom came to America last year with a ton of hype and an arsenal of pitches some were curious to see translate to the big leagues.
Darvish lived up to his billing, setting team rookie records and becoming one of the Rangers' few bright spots down the stretch. If it wasn't for Mike Trout's incredible season, Darvish probably wins AL Rookie of the Year.
Year two is approaching and all eyes will be on Darvish to see if he can battle the dreaded sophomore slump and keep his status as the ace of the rotation.
The Rangers confidence in Darvish is justified, but like any other player, there are areas to improve.
The most obvious is his control. It is no coincidence that Darvish saw a spike in his success when his walk rate went down. He finished fourth in the American League in free passes, but his very high strikeout rate (10.40 K/9) kept the damage to a minimum for the most part.
Yu’s control also directly correlates to his ability to pitch deep into ballgames. He was a workhorse and showed resiliency last year by averaging just under 110 pitches per start, tops on the team, but he was not able to eclipse the 200-inning mark.
With the questions surrounding the Rangers' bullpen at the moment, it would make Ron Washington's job much easier if Darvish routinely pitched into the seventh inning or beyond, something he did very well his last eight starts.
Another less talked about area Darvish can improve is holding runners on base. He allowed 23 stolen bases last season. Holding that pesky runner at first keeps him out of scoring position and also keeps the double play in order. Darvish is undoubtedly working hard on this and should have a better grasp on MLB base stealers in his second year.
The Rangers will almost certainly add another starter through trade or free agency. Who that player may be is up in the air right now.
Until that time, Darvish is the figurehead in the rotation.
His improvement is essential.
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