- Harry How/Getty
- Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish gave up five runs in less than two innings of work during Game 7 of the World Series. Game footage indicates that Darvish was tipping his pitches, allowing Astros hitters to adjust to his tactics. It wasn’t the first time Darvish had given away too much with his body language, signaling a troubling trend.
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Yu Darvish struggled mightily Wednesday night in a loss to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series, and it may have been because of a bad habit he’s struggled with in the past: pitch tipping.
The Astros were all over Darvish from the start of the game, scoring two runs in the first inning thanks to a leadoff double and a lucky error. They went up 5-0 with another rally in the next inning, highlighted by George Springer’s monster home run to center field. All the while, Darvish had trouble fooling the Astros, watching as they fouled off pitch after pitch and swung from their heels on every breaking ball.
Darvish was pulled after that Springer home run, and the Dodgers’ bullpen proceeded to hold Houston scoreless for the rest of the game, which ended 5-1. Soon after, several analysts suggested that Darvish had been tipping his pitches, allowing hitters to follow the ball with far more precision.
Eduardo Perez, a former MLB player who now works as an ESPN analyst, outlined Darvish’s mistakes the day after the game on an episode of ESPN’s “Mike & Mike.”
“All of a sudden I realized his right hand, every time he’s going to throw the fastball, puts it in and it never moves, because he already has the grip,” Perez said. “But every time he’s going to throw the slider, puts it in, and you see a little bit of movement. That’s all you need: a little bit of movement. Now I know it’s not a fastball. I eliminate the No. 1. You eliminate the No. 1, it opens the door for beautiful things to come.”
Perez named Brian McCann and Yuli Gurriel in particular as players who took advantage of Darvish’s struggles. McCann drew an eight-pitch walk, while Gurriel hung on for 13 pitches before flying out.
Take a look at some footage from Darvish’s night. The first four pitches below are all fastballs, while the last four are sliders. It’s subtle, but there is a bit more of a wiggle of the wrist and glove before the breaking balls.
Now take a look at this pitch to McCann. It’s a slider, but this time Darvish’s wrist and glove remain relatively still. Without the motion to tip him off, McCann is fooled and swings too early.
Though Darvish is one of the better pitchers in baseball, Wednesday night wasn’t his first time giving away too much with his body language. He made a similar mistake over the summer when he was still with the Texas Rangers, pausing slightly before his fastballs during a 22-10 loss to the Miami Marlins. The 31-year-old said he was able to correct the problem after being made aware of it, but as in the World Series, it was too little, too late.
Darvish finished the postseason with a 6.14 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings. He’s set to become a free agent this offseason.