It's funny what can happen when a dominant pitcher pounds the strike zone with his plus fastball and forces hitters be aggressive right back — you get some pretty quick innings and work deeper into games.
As great as Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish is, that's one area where he's struggled in his two seasons with the Rangers. He's yet to throw a complete game in his career and has worked up some ridiculous pitch counts in the 130s due to his high strikeout totals and the occasional lapse in command.
In Monday's Cactus League outing against the Cincinnati Reds, Darvish was doing what all veteran starters do in spring training, which is to not worry about results and just fine-tune things or work on new pitches. Darvish's plan entering the game was to use his fastball — both the four-seam and two-seam variety — almost exclusively and force hitters to put the ball in play early.
The result? Darvish went beyond his planned outing and pitched five innings, allowing two runs on five hits with just one strikeout. He averaged just north of 12 pitches per inning, something that rarely happened in 2013 when he finished second in the AL Cy Young race while leading the world with 277 strikeouts. He averaged just more than 6 innings per start in his 32 starts last season.
He want to change that this year.
"I want to go more innings this year," Darvish told reporters through his interpreter. "If I throw my pitches in the strike zone, I'll think I'll be able to accomplish it."
Sure, strikeouts are sexy and a big stat people like to look at, but if Darvish can get into the seventh and eighth inning more consistently, both he and the Rangers would be better off for it.
"I hope this is a trend where they put balls into play early," manager Ron Washington said. "That gave him a chance to get through some quick innings. He's not trying to get weak contact. He's throwing his game. He's using the fastball, putting it over the plate and commanding it a little more, which means they are going to be swinging a little quicker."