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Is Yu Darvish to blame for the Los Angeles Dodgers' World Series loss?

412   //    07 Dec 2017, 20:31 IST

In a blockbuster deal right before the summer trade deadline, Yu Darvish was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He put up good numbers during the regular season, with a 3.86 ERA, and only 159 hits allowed over 189 innings pitched.

With these numbers coming into the post season, and 1.76 ERA during the NLCS, his poor performance during the World Series was a huge surprise, and arguably the performance that lost the World Series.

He had already proven himself as a reliable starter for the Dodgers, second to only Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. His record was 10-12, and he had pitched in the major leagues for five years. And although he was traded to Dodgers from the Rangers only before the summer trade deadline, he had shown he was comfortable with the Dodgers by the time the postseason had come around.

Taken together, Yu Darvish was looking to be a solid prospect for the Dodgers.

When the World Series began, the Dodgers had come in with one of the most solid line ups in the National League. Cody Bellinger was in the running for National League Rookie of the Year and Clayton Kershaw, who had proved himself over the years, was a National League Cy Young contender. But while they did have a solid lineup, the Astros had one of the best offensive lineups in the league, with names like Jose Altuve and George Springer on their roster, along with Correa - who had won the American League Rookie of the Year two years ago.

Darvish’s first start for the World Series was during game 3. He did not get off to good start, narrowly escaping the 1st inning with the bases loaded. Allowing these many base hits in the first inning was already a bad sign, but no one had any idea what was about to come in the harrowing second inning.

With the score still 0-0 Darvish threw carelessly, allowing for an offensive rally against the Dodgers. By the end of the second inning, Darvish had 60 pitches and had allowed 4 runs. This would put him at pitching an abysmal 22 ERA for the entire game.

World Series - Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Seven
World Series - Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Seven

Rickey Honeycutt, the pitching manager for the Dodgers, hoped to put Darvish's loss in game 3 behind him and start him for the World Series' critical game 7. This was the deciding game, and neither side could afford a mistake.

With the Astros' offense on fire after the last game, the Dodgers had a chance with rookie Cody Bellinger beginning to warm up offensively. Once again they started Darvish. This time he allowed another five runs over the first and second inning, and after he was taken off there were no other pitcher allowed a hit.

Once again they suffered defeat, this time losing out on a chance to snatch the greatest title in all of baseball.

While it is easy to put the blame on Darvish, how can we tell if his performance realy made a difference? One way would be to substitute other pitchers' stats in for Yu’s.

For example, Alex Wood allowed only 1 hit over 7 innings, and pitched a 1.17 ERA over the World Series. If he had pitched in Yu Darvish’s place for the 3rd game, statistically speaking, he would have probably allowed a maximum of one run over two innings. This would mean that the Dodgers would have won Game 3, which in turn would mean that Dodgers would have won the world series 4-2.

In fact, any other starting pitcher on the Dodgers' lineup would have had good enough statistics to pitch in place of Darvish and win Game 3. One could argue that had a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw started in place of Yu during game 7, that they would have won that game too.

While much of the World Series is clear in hindsight, the nature of sports dictates that we could never know if the Dodgers would have won the World Series without Darvish. But while we don’t know for sure, Yu Darvish might just have been the key factor that sealed the Dodgers' fate.


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