Underwhelming title? Rangers starter Yu Darvish’s strikeout rate will overwhelm you. The 26-year-old right-hander struck out 14 Red Sox over seven innings today, lowering his ERA to 2.56. The 14 K’s bring his total to 72 on the season in 45 and one-third innings, a rate of 14.3 per nine innings. On a batters-faced basis, his strikeout rate is 40 percent.
To put that in perspective, the only pitchers to have a strikeout rate of 40 percent or better last year were relievers: Craig Kimbrel (50%) and Aroldis Chapman (44%). The leader among starters was Max Scherzer at 29 percent, followed by Darvish himself at 27 percent.
In baseball history, only two starters have qualified for the ERA title and finished with a K/9 above 13: Randy Johnson in 2001 (13.4 in 249.2 innings) and Pedro Martinez in 1999 (13.2 in 213.1 innings). Today marked the second time this season Darvish had struck out 14 — he opened up the season with a 14-K performance (and 8.2 innings of no-hit ball) against the Astros. The last starter to have two 14-strikeout performances in one season was Roy Halladay in 2011, on April 24 against the Padres and on August 16 against the Diamondbacks. It was also Darvish’s fourth double-digit strikeout game in seven starts.
In terms of overall swing-and-miss rate, Darvish at 41 percent vastly outpaces second-place Ryan Dempster at 34 percent. Darvish led all pitchers last year at 29 percent, followed by Scherzer at 28 percent.
While it is unlikely Darvish will keep up this frenetic pace of missing bats, it is still something to marvel at, as we see it so rarely even as strikeouts continue to rise to historic levels.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.