Originally posted on Baseball Prospectus  |  Last updated 8/9/12

One way to look at how a pitcher attacks hitters is to look at what the pitcher throws in two-strike counts. In two-strike counts, pitchers often try to put hitters away with a breaking ball, induce weak contact with a sinker, overpower hitters with an extra-hard fastball, or throw a changeup with a bit of extra screw action.

I hadn’t seen Yu Darvish pitch in quite some time, but since he started against my Boston Red Sox earlier this week, I once again got a first-hand look. How different he seemed from the pitcher I saw earlier in the season!

Commentary on Darvish has focused on how he has devolved into a kind of nibbling pseudo-Matsuzaka rather than a power pitcher who attacks hitters in the zone. I went to the data to look at how his approach vs. two-strike hitters has changed over the course of the season.

The first plot shows what kind of fastball Darvish has been throwing with two strikes. You can see a very clear difference between the months of April and May and the months of June, July, and August.

Early in the season, Darvish was attacking hitters with the four-seam fastball nearly 25% of the time in two-strike counts; that percentage has slowly tailed off, and he has turned into more of a sinkerball pitcher. While he rarely threw the sinker early in the season in two-strike counts (

I also looked at the kind of breaking pitches Darvish is throwing with two strikes.

Immediately, you can see a very obvious trend: the slider gradually has become his favorite two-strike weapon, approaching nearly 40% of his two-strike pitches. The curve, which was an early favorite (to compliment the four-seam fastball) has gradually tailed off and is now thrown only 15% of the time. Interestingly, there has been no obvious change in effectiveness that might warrant these changes in breaking ball usage: the two pitches have not gained or lost an appreciable percentage of whiffs/swing.

It is also worth noting that Darvish throws “two” curveball variants—a hard one and a softer one. In his August starts, his two-strike curveballs have lost almost 5.5 mph and gained over 6 inches of vertical drop compared to his earlier starts. So, the uptick in curveballs toward the end of that plot may indicate an increased propensity to throw the softer curve with two strikes.

Conclusion: Darvish is clearly approaching hitters differently with two strikes now than he was earlier in the season, which indicates he’s trying to get outs a different way.

Pitch Tags compiled from the PITCH INFO LLC database. I would like to thank Harry Pavlidis for comments on an earlier draft of this article. 

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Rob Gronkowski seems to agree he's been targeted on P.I. calls

Harbaugh on kick-six: ‘Never seen anything like it in my life’

Report: Josh McCown’s season likely over

Antonio Cromartie: Beckham Jr. still has room to grow

NFL pulls officiating crew from SNF after error-filled game

Jason Garrett: Tony Romo has a lot of football left in him


Jerry West: It’s painful watching Kobe Bryant

Brett Favre compared Browns QB Austin Davis to Tom Brady

NCAA figures out how to invite 5-7 teams to bowls

Okafor reportedly will have security guard when he goes out

Missouri to interview Utah State coach Matt Wells

Floyd Mayweather attends Knicks D-League game

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

QUIZ: Name every NCAA football national champion since 1950

Browns lose to Ravens as only the Browns know how

NCAA figures out how to invite 5-7 teams to bowls

Ranking top Heisman Trophy candidates

Have the New Orleans Saints given up?

This weekend in NFL stupid, ft. Rex Ryan

Missouri won’t accept a bowl bid at 5-7

Durant blasts media on behalf of Kobe

Josh McCown laments how he got job back from Manziel

Paul George: Kobe Bryant was my Michael Jordan

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker