ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish was the toughest to hit against in the American League in 2013. That, right there, makes a compelling case as to why he should be the first Rangers pitcher to win an AL Cy Young Award when the voting results are revealed Wednesday at 5 p.m. CT on MLB Network and MLB.com.
He didn't win 21 games like Max Scherzer with the Tigers. He only won 13 games. But the Rangers also averaged two less runs per nine innings when Darvish was on the mound than the Tigers did with Scherzer pitching. Among Darvish's many accomplishments this past season, he became the first pitcher in 24 years to lose four games by a 1-0 score. The Rangers also scored two runs or fewer in 17 of his last 23 starts.
But, despite the lack of run support over the final four months of the season, Darvish still went out there in most games and dominated the opposition. A few numbers stand out.
First of all, Darvish struck out 277 batters at a rate of 11.89 per nine innings, both the highest in the AL. The 11.89 strikeouts per nine innings were also the fourth highest ever in AL history, surpassed only twice by Randy Johnson and once by Pedro Martinez.
Opponents also hit .194 off him, the lowest in the American League. His .611 OPS was the second lowest in the league behind Scherzer, who had a .583 OPS.
"He's really good, and it's pretty evident when you look at his numbers," Astros manager Bo Porter said after one of Darvish's many dominant performances. "You're talking about a guy who has top-line stuff, knows how to use it ... it's electric stuff -- No. 1 starter stuff. When a guy can rush it in there at 96 [mph] and spin a breaking ball in the zone, out of the zone -- he doesn't just have control, this guy has command. He can throw every pitch where he wants to throw it, even out of the strike zone."
Another sign of how dominant Darvish was included how much trouble opponents had just putting the bat on the ball and putting the ball in play. Opponents were able to put just 13.8 percent of his pitches in play, the lowest ratio in the league. When they swung, opponents put the ball in play just 31.5 percent of the time, also the lowest in the league.
Darvish finished fifth in the league with a 2.83 ERA and allowed three or fewer runs in 26 of 32 starts. He did not allow a run in seven of his outings. He permitted three or fewer hits in 11 starts, second most in club history.
With more run support over the final four months of the season -- the Rangers averaged 3.08 runs per nine innings in his last 23 starts -- Darvish might have had a visually more appealing season. But he was still the toughest pitcher to hit, and that makes for a compelling case for the AL Cy Young Award.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less