Steve Sailer: A Debate Over the Dodgers’ Iranian-Japanese Pitcher Yu Darvish

Steve Sailer writes: First fan: Darvish should do the honorable thing and remove himself from the game by committing seppuku on the mound.

Second fan: Or at least he could flog himself Shi’ite style on his way to the showers.

Japanese athletes had a lot of pressure on them in the 20th Century in international competitions, such as the Japanese marathoner who was supposed to win the golf in Tokyo in 1964 but committed suicide.

The Japanese underachieved for awhile in the Olympics, quite possibly due to the stifling pressure of representing the nation.

But in the 21st Century, Japanese have done pretty well in the Olympics, so maybe they’ve learned better how to deal with the pressure.

I don’t know about Kershaw and his post-season problems, but here’s an analogy.

Bill James wrote about how Craig Biggio was a Hall of Famer during the regular season, but was pretty mediocre in the postseason. He speculated that Biggio, a smallish man for a big time athlete, may have feasted on #5 starters but got outgunned by all the aces he had to face in the postseason.

Unfortunately, Baseball References splits page don’t let you check that. What I did notice about Biggio was that his regular season hitting fell off pretty badly in September, the sixth and last month of the regular season. My guess would be that he worked out very hard in the offseason, started the season in great shape, and then started to wear down from minor injuries (second basemen get beat up a lot by runners trying to break up the double play) and fatigue in the last month of the season and this carried through into the postseason.

Another possibility is that the Astros are just a historically strong hitting team. No they are probably not as good as the 1927 Yankees other than the Yankees didn’t have a DH. But if the OPS+ figure is correct, they are considerably stronger hitters than, say, the famous 1982 Milwaukee Brewers or the zillion dollar Yankee teams of the Rodriguez-Jeter-Cano era.

COMMENTS:

* Has an Asian athlete ever had a Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Tom Brady moment. It seems that they always crumble in high stakes moments where there is not a lot of time for preparation. Just asking?

* Tony Castro: Sadaharu Oh. Hideki Matsui was the 2009 World Series MVP for the Yankees hitting .615 (8 for 13) with 3 home runs and 8 RBI. Hideo Nomo Nomo is one of only five players that have ever pitched a no-hitter game in both the National League and American League in Major League Baseball history. He has pitched the only no-hitters at Coors Field and Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Ichiro Suzuki was MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, 10 time All Star, had 10 200 hit season and holds the record for most hits in a season, joined the 3,000-Hit Club… all this after playing his first nine season in the Japanese leagues.

I wonder if the real question about the Dodgers’ loss that you should be asking has nothing to do with Darvish and more to do with the person making the decision to have him pitch that game when the team’s best pitcher was healthy enough to start. Or, if you wanted to make a point about an Asian heritage athlete NOT having a Magic-Bird-Brady moment when the stakes were high, you more accurately could have singled out Dodger Manager Dave Roberts, who clearly showed himself to be a small-time manager with a big-time team in a major league moment — and failing.
If the only reason Dave Roberts is manager of the Dodgers is his role in the 2004 Boston World Series championship, then perhaps the Dodgers should have hired Terry Francona, who was the manager of that team and of the 2007 World Series champs as well.

* The Yakuza way is to cut off the finger. In this case, cut off his entire hand.

* Hideki Masui was 2009 World Series MVP batting in 6 runs in the decisive 6th game.

* Maybe, Yu Darvish was too traumatized by Yuli Gurriel’s micro-aggressions to pitch effectively.

* True enough, Darvish was just horrible. He was scared to death, as he was his first start of the WS.

But in fact, it was Dodger manager Roberts who really hurt the Dodgers.

– 1. By starting Darvish a second time. He had the previously very effective lefty Alex Wood ready to go.

– 2. Not only did Roberts start Darvish twice, but Roberts made blunder after blunder throughout the series.

Astros manager Hinch clearly out managed Roberts in every way.

I’m a Dodgers fan and it was embarrassing.

* Even though Kershaw is a multimillionaire superstar, I sometimes can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him. There may be something about his pitching style that doesn’t translate that well to the postseason, but he’s been pretty unlucky as well.

This year, for example, no one is going to remember his postseason performance as being dominant, because the Dodgers didn’t win the World Series, and because he got shelled in the infamous WS Game 5.

But if you look at his overall stats for this postseason, they’re (almost) uniformly excellent.

He went 3-0, to please the saber-hater traditionalists.

He gave up just 21 hits in 33 innings, and his opponents hit just .179 against him, as compared with .212 in the regular season.

His WHIP in the postseason — 0.94 — was actually lower than in the regular season, when it was 0.95.

He had 33 strikeouts in those 33 innings, an excellent one-per-inning average. Admittedly, this is not quite as good as he was in the regular season, but it’s close enough to be statistically meaningless, and again, it’s against better competition, including one of the best-hitting teams of all time in the Astros.

The problem, as you say, was the home run. Kershaw gave up 8 in the 2017 postseason, leading very directly to an ERA of 3.82, compared to 2.21 in the regular season.

He had some problems with the long ball in the regular season this year as well, as he gave up 23, which is his worst season in this regard by quite a margin. But 8 in 33 innings is really bad compared with 23 in 175 regular-season innings — much less the 11 in 236 innings he gave up back in 2013.

So this again makes one think. All things considered, Kershaw seems better than ever — except for the gopher balls. So either he’s held steady or even improved in all aspects of his pitching except for suddenly and inexplicably grooving occasional pitches in a way he didn’t in the past, or else we’re back to wondering about the ball again.

* According to some guys on sportsball radio this morning, the Astros picked up a tell in Darvish’s pitching. When he held the ball still in his glove, a fastball was coming. If his pitching hand was moving around getting a grip on the ball, a slider was coming. So they hitters knew just what to expect.

The radio guys also noted that the Dodgers pitching coach should have picked this up as well and warned Darvish, but apparently that didn’t happen.

* His slider was a cement mixer as well, for Houston it was like hitting the ball from a T.

Even Fox broadcaster hall of famer Smoltz stated that this is what happens when a pitcher is nervous and cannot bring his nerves under control. He get’s under the ball, he aims, is tight with his breaking pitches, etc, etc.

Darvish was not ready for the big moments and it clearly showed. His eyes even had the look of fear.

Yet the not too smart Dave Roberts started him a 2nd time with the same results as the 1st when he had the previously effective Alex Woods ready to go.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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