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From BR Bullpen
Sefat Farid Yu Darvish (ダルビッシュ 有)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 5", Weight 225 lb.
- High School Tohoku High School
- Debut April 9, 2012
 Biographical Information
Yu Darvish is a starting pitcher with the Texas Rangers who has appeared in the Olympics and was a star for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for many years. He was widely heralded as the ace for the Fighters, as well as one of the top hurlers in Japanese baseball. He throws a 91-95 four-seam fastball (tops out at 98 mph), along with a low-80s slurve, cutter, shuuto (two-seamer), curveball, and a splitter. Though his slurve is noted to be of high quality, his command and control also have had continued development since his rookie season.
Yu's father is an Iranian businessman and former Iranian national soccer team member  while his mother is Japanese. Yu is their eldest son. Darvish first inspired interest in Japan in 2004 after pitching a no-hitter at the Koshien National High School Baseball Championship in his senior year for Tohoku High School, the school that also produced Major League and Japanese All-Star Kazuhiro Sasaki. Darvish played for Japan in the 2004 World Junior Championship, going 0-1 with a 7.11 ERA; he had the worst ERA on the team and took the loss in the Gold Medal game against Cuba and Yadier Pedroso. Darvish dominated the news when he was signed by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the NPB in 2005 after being their first-round draft pick.
He received further press when he was caught smoking in a pachinko parlor on an off-day at his first Spring Training in 2005, despite being underage for both activities. The incident led to his subsequent suspension from his team and high school, as well as being ordered to give volunteer work. Despite his suspension, Darvish made his professional baseball debut later in the season. He went 5-5 with a 3.53 ERA for the Fighters that season.
In 2006, Darvish improved to 12-5, 2.89. He allowed 128 hits and struck out 115 in 149 2/3 IP. Nippon Ham won their first pennant in 25 years. Yu then helped the franchise win their first Japan Series since 1961, over the Chunichi Dragons. Darvish lost Game 1 to Chunichi ace Kenshin Kawakami, but the Fighters were able to overcome the loss and Darvish pitched the clinching Game 5 at the Sapporo Dome, a 4-1 victory. Darvish also won the championship game of the Asia Series, played between the league champions of Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea at the end of the 2006 season. He won the Most Valuable Player Award for that series, and is considered to be one of Japan's biggest rising stars. 
After Daisuke Matsuzaka signed for the Boston Red Sox and left Japan for the United States of America, attention focused on Yu Darvish to help keep up the popularity of baseball in Japan. As a young star in Japanese baseball, Darvish was expected to fill the void left by Matsuzaka’s departure. . Unlike Matsuzaka, Darvish told the Japanese press that he had no intention of seeking a move to America anytime in the future. Four years later, he would change his mind. He threw a one-hitter against the Chiba Lotte Marines on July 6, 2007, the lone hit a single by Saburo Omura in the second inning. That month, Darvish was the subject of a racy picture profile in the womens' magazine Gramorous. He announced he would marry the actress Saeko later in the year.
Darvish won the Sawamura Award in 2007 after going 15-5 with a 1.82 ERA. He lost the PL ERA title by percentage points by Yoshihisa Naruse, was second to Hideaki Wakui in innings pitched (207 2/3), tied Toshiya Sugiuchi for third in wins, led in complete games (12), tied Sugiuchi for second in shutouts (3, one behind Naruse), led in hit batsmen (13) and led in strikeouts (210, 14 ahead of rookie star Masahiro Tanaka). Darvish became the first Sawamura Award winner ever from the Fighters franchise. He won a Gold Glove and made the Best Nine. He also won the MVP, following former teammate Michihiro Ogasawara in the PL. Darvish was the third-youngest MVP in Japanese history, following Eiji Sawamura and Kazuhisa Inao.
Darvish continued to shine in the postseason. He won game five of the Pacific League Climax Series to send the Fighters to the 2007 Japan Series over the Chiba Lotte Marines. In game one of the Series, he pitched a 4-hit, 1-run complete game and struck out 13, tying Kimiyasu Kudoh's record for a 9-inning stint in the history of the Japan Series. In game five, Darvish gave up only one run in 7 innings, but lost to the Chunichi Dragons when Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase combined on the first perfect game in Japan Series history. Darvish's 24 strikeouts were a record for a five-game Japan Series. He won the Fighting Spirit Award as the best player on the losing team in the Japan Series.
Darvish joined the Japanese national team for the 2007 Asian Championship. He was originally slated to start against South Korea in Game Two but manager Senichi Hoshino moved him to Game Three against Taiwan. Darvish allowed only 3 hits and 3 walks in 7 innings, striking out six. He gave up two runs, both on a homer to Chin-Feng Chen, and was credited with the win.
In the 2008 Olympics, Darvish was 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA; he fanned 10 but walked 5 in 7 innings of work. He took the loss against Norge Vera and the Cuban national team with a poor performance. He allowed a triple to Alexei Bell and RBI single to Alfredo Despaigne in the second; in the 4th, he gave up a Yulieski Gourriel double and Frederich Cepeda RBI single. Then, in the 5th, he walked Cepeda and allowed a Bell double before Yoshihisa Naruse relieved and gave up a 2-run single to Despaigne. He tossed two shutout innings against Team USA in the final game of the round-robin.
Darvish had another great season in 2008, going 16-4 with a 1.88 ERA. In 200 2/3 innings, he allowed only 136 hits while striking out 208 hitters. He again lost the PL ERA title by the slimmest of margins, .01 behind Hisashi Iwakuma. He was second in innings (one behind Iwakuma), second in wins (5 behind Iwakuma), led in complete games (10), tied for second in shutouts (2), was second in strikeouts (5 behind Toshiya Sugiuchi and was third in hit batsmen (9). Darvish signed a new deal following the season, worth 270 million yen annually; this was a new record for players with 4 years experience, breaking Norichika Aoki's one-year mark of 220 million yen.
Darvish was 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, allowing seven hits in 13 innings while fanning 20. He tied for second in the Classic in wins (one behind Daisuke Matsuzaka), tied for the most walks (6) and led in strikeouts (5 ahead of runner-up Iwakuma). Yu tossed four hitless shutout innings in a win over China. In his second start, he let the first four South Koreans reach and gave up 3 first-inning runs in a loss to Jung-keun Bong. He then was moved by Tatsunori Hara to the bullpen for the remainder of the series. He pitched the 9th inning of the semifinal win over Team USA, striking out Adam Dunn and David Wright and getting Derek Jeter, allowing only a Jimmy Rollins hit. Darvish was summoned to close the grand finale, with Japan leading South Korea 3-2. He struck out Keun-woo Jeong but walked Hyun-soo Kim and Tae-kyun Kim. He recovered to whiff Shin-soo Choo. Needing one more out, he gave up a Bum-ho Lee RBI single to blow the save. Now in danger of a loss, he fanned Young-min Ko. Japan scored twice in the top of the 10th. In the bottom of the 10th, he walked Min-ho Kang then struck out Jeong Choi. He got Yong-kyu Lee to fly out then fanned his fifth batter of the two-inning stretch, Keun-woo Jeong, to give Japan the WBC title.
Darvish had another big season in 2009. He was 15-5 with a 1.73 ERA before being sidelined at the end of September due to back problems. He led the PL in ERA, .57 ahead of runner-up Wakui. He was also among the leaders in wins (tied with Masahiro Tanaka and Toshiya Sugiuchi, one behind Wakui), innings (182, 4th), complete games (8, 2nd to Wakui), shutouts (2, tied for 3rd) and strikeouts (167, 4th). He was named to the PL Best Nine as the circuit's top pitcher and also won the MVP Award but lost the Sawamura Award to Wakui.
Darvish returned from a month and a half off to start game two of the 2009 Japan Series. He allowed two runs in six innings, both on a Yoshiyuki Kamei home run, before leaving and getting credit for the win. Nippon Ham fell to the Yomiuri Giants in six games; had the Series gone seven games, Darvish was slated to pitch the finale.
During his first few seasons, Darvish used Shinya Tsuruoka as practically a personal catcher.
Darvish was 12-8 with a 1.78 ERA in 2010. He became the 5th NPB hurler to start four Opening Days in a row and fanned 222 in 202 innings. His opponent average (.216) and WHIP (1.01) were still very good, though the highest they had been in four years. He became the first NPB hurler to have four ERAs in a row under 2 since Kazuhisa Inao five decades prior. He led the league in ERA (.69 over Masaru Takeda), complete games (10), strikeouts (four ahead of Sugiuchi), lowest opponent average and WHIP (.01 over Naruse). He also was third in innings (trailing Chihiro Kaneko and Naruse), tied for 8th in wins (with Bobby Keppel and Bill Murphy) and tied for third in shutouts (2). He lost Best Nine honors to Tsuyoshi Wada and the Sawamura Award to Kenta Maeda. He finished 5th in voting for the 2010 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award, behind Wada, Sugiuchi, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Hitoshi Tamura.
He was 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA, .190 opponent average and .83 WHIP in 2011. Offensive levels fell in Japan that year with a new baseball being used. Darvish allowed just five homers and 36 walks while striking out 276 in 232 innings. He finished second in ERA (0.17 behind Masahiro Tanaka), first in innings, third in wins (one behind Tanaka and D.J. Houlton), second in complete games (10, behind Tanaka), tied for first in shutouts (6, even with Tanaka), first in strikeouts (35 ahead of Tanaka), first in wild pitches (10), first in opponent average (.015 ahead of Sugiuchi) and first in WHIP (.04 ahead of Tanaka). He lost the Sawamura Award and Best Nine to Tanaka and was 6th in voting for the 2011 Pacific League Most Valuable Player Award, between Wada and Houlton.
During the 2011 season, speculation began to mount that Darvish would be the next big Japanese star to move to the United States. On December 8th, this was confirmed when Darvish announced that he had asked for his name to be placed on the posting system. His combination of age, talent and past success meant that he would likely attract one of the highest bids ever made through the system, approaching that made by the Boston Red Sox for Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006. He had been 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA and .98 WHIP in his NPB career to that point, with 1,259 whiffs in 1,268 1/3 innings. On December 19th, it was announced that the Texas Rangers had made the winning bid, at $51.7 million, breaking the record set when the Red Sox bid $51.1 million for Matsuzaka five years earlier. The Rangers came to an agreement with Darvish on a six-year, $60 million contract on January 18, 2012, as the 30-day negotiating period was about to expire.
Darvish attracted a huge amount of attention during spring training in 2012, as everyone wanted to see whether the Rangers' huge investment was justified. He seemed to be feeling the pressure during his first major league start on April 9th, facing the Seattle Mariners. He gave up four runs in the 1st inning, before settling down and then pitching into the 6th inning. His teammates picked him up, hitting four homers on the day, and he was given credit for Texas' 11-5 win for his first major league victory. He gave a better indication of what the Rangers' were shelling out the big money for in his third start, when he gave up only a pair of hits over 6 innings to earn a 10-3 win over the Detroit Tigers on April 19th. He was then dominant for the remainder of the month and won American League Rookie of the Month honors, thanks to a 4-0 record, a 2.18 ERA and 33 strikeouts. He suffered his first loss of the year on May 6th, bowing 4-2 to the Cleveland Indians. He made the All-Star team (but did not appear in the All-Star Game) and on August 28th, set a Texas rookie record with his 13th win when he defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 1-0, recording 10 strikeouts in the process, the 8th time he had reached double digits in strikeouts during the season. Only Nolan Ryan, with 18 in 1989, had ever pitched more such games in a season in team history. For his first MLB season, he had gone 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA, 221 strikeouts and 156 hits in 191 1/3 IP for a 116 ERA+. He pitched well in the 2012 American League Wild Card Game but was outdueled by Baltimore's Joe Saunders and the Rangers lost, 5-1. That loss ended the Rangers' season. He tied fellow Japanese hurler Hiroki Kuroda as well as Max Scherzer and Phil Hughes for 6th in the 2012 AL in wins. He also was among the leaders in winning percentage (7th), fewest hits per 9 innings (behind Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander), strikeouts (5th) and walks (89, 4th between C.J. Wilson and Justin Masterson).
Darvish flirted with perfection in his first start of the 2013 season on April 2nd against the Houston Astros. He retired the first 26 batters he faced, including 14 by strikeout, before giving up a single up the middle to Marwin Gonzalez with two outs in the 9th. As he had thrown 111 pitches by that point, manager Ron Washington removed him from the game in favor of reliever Michael Kirkman, who recorded the final out of the game after giving up another single. The Rangers won, 7-0. On May 5th, when he struck out 14 Boston Red Sox batters, matching a career high; the Rangers won that game on a walk-off hit in the 9th, but Joe Nathan received credit for the victory.
 Notable Achievements
- 2012 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- AL All-Star (2012)
- 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2012)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (2012)
 Related Sites
- Yu Darvish on mlb.com
- Yu Darvish's Official Website
- Darvish Watch
- Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Official Website
- Yu Darvish Room At Nikkansports.com
- Yu Darvish Statistics And Information
- Daily Telegraph Article Detailing The Impact Of Yu Darvish's Mixed Parentage On Japan
- 2008 Olympics
- World Baseball Classic website
- Taiwan Baseball Wiki