Yu Darvish Notched 7 Strikeouts with New/Old Favorite Curveball

The story of Yu Darvish’s new pitch has already reached mythical proportions, but that’s not stopping him from adding to the tall tale each time out. He messed around with it in a pregame bullpen session ahead of his start against the Giants three weeks ago and it’s since become a regular put-away pitch for him.

According to Baseball Savant, Darvish threw 14 knuckle curves Thursday afternoon, seven of which ended at-bats. All seven of those were strikeouts, four swinging and three looking, accounting for half of Darvish’s total for the game. Not bad for a new pitch, huh. Or is it actually an old pitch?

“I used to throw the hard curve, but that was before Tommy John,” Darvish told reporters after the game. “After that, I struggle with that pitch, my best pitch. Kimbrel taught me the knuckle-curve, and I feel that can be my best pitch.”

The elbow reconstruction in questions took place in 2015, so Darvish was without that hard curve for three subsequent seasons and most of the current campaign as well. Far more than just padding his record 10 different pitches, the knuckle curve has given Darvish a weapon he can use confidently to keep hitters at bay. Because it’s thrown similar to a four-seamer, the new curve has greater velocity than his other benders and gives him back his old favorite pitch.

That means opposing hitters have a new least favorite pitch, as we just saw from the Padres. Darvish getting his curve back is a very big deal, whether it’s a matter of propelling the Cubs into the postseason this year or helping him to maintain his ace status next year and beyond.

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