Yu Darvish Faces Hiroki Kuroda in Tonight's All-Japan Yankees/Rangers Matchup

Steven GoldmanMLB Lead BloggerApril 24, 2012

Yu Darvish: Lefty-vulnerable?
Yu Darvish: Lefty-vulnerable?Leon Halip/Getty Images

On Tuesday night in Texas, two natives of Japan will match up when the YankeesHiroki Kuroda takes the mound against the Rangers’ Yu Darvish. Here’s Kuroda (via The LoHud Yankees Blog):

“This is not a one-on-one game,” he said. “It’s the Rangers against the Yankees. I’m going to do as much as possible so that our team is going to win. … I try not to think about (the hype in Japan). I don’t want to make it any bigger than it is.”

And it’s not that big. It isn't any more novel than two pitchers born in Newark, New Jersey matching up, or Joe Niekro squaring off against Phil Niekro or any game that might be a playoff preview. Mostly though, it’s a matchup of two pitchers who have, in their own way, disappointed so far this year. Kuroda has had one good start this season pitching eight shutout innings against the Angels. He's allowed 12 runs in 10 other innings.

Meanwhile, Darvish has struggled with his command, walking 13 in 17.2 innings while also allowing 19 hits. His ERA is only 3.57 by virtue of the fact that he has yet to allow a home run, but that’s not going to last, particularly when left-handed hitters have seen him as well as they have so far, hitting .313/.431/.396. Conversely, Darvish has been almost dominant against right-handers, holding them to .174/.321/.217 line. Those splits are akin to those you sometimes see from sidearmers, and if they persist then Darvish is going to be a lot less than we expected him to be.

What is correctable is the number of walks. It has been suggested that Darvish has been nibbling and that he needs to get ahead with first-pitch fastballs. Of course, that carries its own risks—if batters are looking fastball and a first-pitch strike catches too much of the plate, Davish’s homerless streak would be over in a hurry.

The Yankees' lineup is going to present some challenges in that regard anyway given its status as the best in the American League—right ahead of Texas. The Yankees are hitting .284/.365/.489 as a team, which is a bit like saying the entire roster is composed of Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. With switch-hitters Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher and left-handed hitters Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Raul Ibanez about, Darvish’s lefty problems are going to get tested very, very quickly.

The Yankees are also third in the league in walk percentage (this in spite of Ibanez’s best efforts) so if Darvish nibbles again, they’re going to happily walk around the bases.

None of that is to say that Kuroda will skate by easily. He has yet to show consistency this year and has had his own lefty problems. Fortunately for him, the Rangers are mostly right-handed. Unfortunately, their one left-handed hitter of note is Josh Hamilton, who is hitting .408/.429/.789 on the season.

The Yankees beat Derek Holland last night and they may well beat Darvish tonight as well, and as for Phil Hughes vs. Scott Feldman on Wednesday, well, that’s anyone’s guess. Whatever happens, though, it is clear that these are the two best teams in the American League and the story is far from over whether the Yankees sweep or take one or two out of three.