We are back again with a good ole’ fashion debate. We looked at two outfielders last time (Benintendi vs Yelich), but today we mixed it up and looked at two pitchers who struck out batters at a 25% clip. First, we have the electric Chris Archer who is coming off a career-high 11.15 K/9 and his 3rd consecutive 200 IP season. Archer has an ADP of 53.26 and is the 15th SP off the board. In the opposing corner, we have newest Chicago Cub, Yu Darvish. He is coming off an embarrassing World Series that seems to have soured some people on his skill set. Darvish is still a pitcher who can run an elite 10+ K/9 and is remaining in the National League. Darvish currently has an ADP 51 according to NFBC and is the 14th SP off the board.
We have two similarly skilled pitchers being taken at roughly the same rate, but which is the better option? We have brought Austin and Rhys back in to debate these two players because they revel in long-winded arguments and yelling. Rhys will defend Rays SP Chris Archer, and Austin will have Yu Darvish. Let’s get to it.
Yu Gotta Believe
The last time we saw Yu Darvish on the mound, he gave up 4 earned runs in just 1.2 innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Don’t let that terrible performance in his final series cloud your judgment from the overall good season that Darvish produced. He finished 2017 with a 3.86 ERA (3.83 FIP/3.65 xFIP/3.71 SIERA), a 10.08 K/9 (shockingly his career low). He only won 10 games in 31 starts but produced 19 quality starts, and his WHIP was a steady 1.16
He was traded from the Rangers to the Dodgers in the midst of his 2017 season. He pitched 49.2 innings with his new team and produced 3.44 ERA. He struck out 61 batters in those 49.2 innings.
As you all know by now, Yu Darvish joined the Cubs for the upcoming season. His move to the NL powerhouse will slightly impact his fantasy stock. He is moving from a division (AL West) that had the highest runs per game in 2017 (4.81 RPG), and the NL West which featured two of the worst scoring teams last season (Giants 29th, Padres 30th in Runs scored) to the NL Central which was more middle of the pack (4.53 RPG). The move to the Cubs also means he will pitch in front of the team’s vaunted defense. They finished last season as the 4th best defensive team based on UZR (22.8) and are coming off a historic defense season in 2016.
Overall, the move to a strikeout-prone division (22.95%) and having a fantastic Cubs defensive team is a positive change to Darvish’s 2018 outlook. Now let’s get into what makes Darvish great, the Japanese right-hander strikes out people at an absurd clip. His 10.08 K/9 last season was actually a career low for him. I expect his strikeout rate to be climbing up next season and would not surprised to see it pushing 11+. On the alternative side of the spectrum, Darvish’s walk-rate is trending in the right direction. When first joining the Major leagues from Japan, he struggled with his command. Since his return from Tommy-John surgery, he has posted a 7.5% walk rate. It may not be Kershaw-esque control but it is an improvement on his 9.6% pre-TJS walk rate.
Darvish can strike-out enough batters to keep up with the top tier of arms (Kluber, Sale) but where he fails is with his ERA. He has posted a 3.86 ERA last season but was a tad unlucky with his HR rate. Based off batted-ball data he was predicted to give up 23 xHR compared to his 27 he allowed. While it doesn’t seem overwhelming, it can shift his ERA downward. He maintained a bbFIP (FIP that uses Batted Ball Data rather than league average data) of 3.50 which suggests that 3.86 ERA had a trace of bad luck.
So why do I Prefer Yu Darvish over Chris Archer?
I was one of the biggest advocate of Chris Archer last season, and while he was okay, my socks were firmly not blown off. We are talking about drafting a starting pitcher with 53.6 ADP who has failed to produce a sub-4 ERA in each of the last two seasons. His WHIP has been below 1.20 in just 2 of his 6 seasons in the major leagues. It’s not hard to track the reasoning for the spike in Archer’s ERA in the last two season. He went from a pitcher allowing 0.68 HR/9 (better than average) from 2014-2015 to a 1.28 HR/9 from 2016-2017 (worse than average.. This doesn’t bode well for Archer who pitches in the AL East, a division that just added the likes of JD Martinez and Giancarlo Stanton to already above-average offenses.
Archer will give you strikeouts and that’s not going to change. He posted a 29.2% K-rate last season which was the second highest in his career. If you compared that to Darvish, you would see that Darvish has posted a better K-rate in 3-of-5 seasons. Both these pitchers can strike out people at an astonishing clip, but I just want to illuminate that Darvish has just been better at it so far in his career.
What really is interesting when comparing these two pitchers, is just how different they go about pitching. Archer relies heavily on his fastball-slider combination throwing it a combined 91.85% of the time. Darvish, on the other hand, has 6 pitches that he can throw at any point. Archer’s two-pitch mix has its downsides. For one, his fastball got hit hard last season. Hitters had a .230 ISO versus the pitch and a 149 wRC+. His slider was as disgusting as a college bar bathroom which Rhys wonderfully pointed out. Overall, Archer is a pitcher who relies on his fastball-slider combination and one of those pitches failed to perform in 2017. That is the opposite of what I want to see. The other pitfall with most two-pitch pitchers is the third time through the order. Hitters tend to have success once they get that extra shot against a two-pitch pitcher. Archer is not the exception to the rule. His ERA the third time through the order in 2017 was 4.97 compared to 3.38 the first two times through.
I’m not here to trash Archer (I didn’t even know I had these strong feelings until I started writing this). Rhys successfully points out well that he does qualities you look for in a starting pitcher (great strikeout rate, innings eater). To me, he is just overpriced heading into the season. Given the option of Darvish or Archer, I will take Darvish 10/10 times.
Poor Chris Archer, someone get this man off the Rays ASAP! Chris Archer produced a really good fantasy season in 2017 ending the season with 201.0 innings pitched, a 4.07 ERA (3.40 FIP, 3.55 xFIP, and a 3.44 SIERRA) while striking out 249 batters with a 1.26 WHIP. With the state of the Rays, he only racked up 10 wins in his 34 starts. He lost 12 games because Kevin Cash leaves Archer in the game too damn long and his team isn’t very good.
Chris Archer for the past 3 seasons has crossed the 200 inning threshold, just missing out in 2014 with 194.2. Since becoming a 200 inning workhorse, he has also racked up at least 230 Ks in each of those seasons. Eclipsing 250 in 2015 and just missed out on 250 in 2017 with 249 Ks. Chris Archer helps his strikeout numbers by rarely falling behind in the count early with an above average 62.3% first pitch strike percentage. He has a nasty slider that generates a wRC+ of 63 and gets plenty of movement as a true out pitch. The slider is a pitch that generates a SwSTR (swinging strike rate) of 19.7%, which is plus when the average SwSTR is 10.5%.
While many like to label Chris Archer as a two-pitch guy, largely because he has abandoned the changeup, I believe his changeup can become a good pitch for him that he can rely upon to help him get through a lineup a third time. For some reason Archer seems to not trust his changeup, only throwing it 8% of the time. In that 8%, he has a 14.0% SwSTR on the changeup and it gets plenty of movement. If he ever can ever trust the changeup like he did in 2016, it can become the pitch that helps him stretch his dominant second time through the order into his subpar third time through the order.
When you draft Archer, you are gaining a dynamic asset that you can pencil in 200 innings and 230 K’s. In today’s game, you can’t guarantee that outside of the top 4 or 5. Unlike many pitchers being drafted around him, you don’t have to worry about health with my main man Chris Archer.
Why am I Drafting Chris Archer over Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish is an extremely talented pitcher and I would love to draft him in a league. With the injury concerns, I can not in good conscience say draft him over someone who you know will be there for you. Darvish has only crossed the 200 inning threshold once in his career, and while he may be the better real-life pitcher, you can not draft him over Chris Archer. Comparing the two stud pitchers innings wise, we have seen Archer throw 809 innings since 2014 as opposed to 431 innings for Yu Darvish, which takes a hit because he lost the 2015 and part of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Yu Darvish during his career has been masterful. He is the ace that can get the ball to move in a multitude of different ways and has at least six offerings. Darvish always seems to be adding more to his repertoire every year. The problem of tipping his pitches has come up with Darvish before. The problem reared its ugly head in 2017, not only during the World Series but also during the regular season. Now, this is brought up because if a batter knows what he is throwing before it leaves his hand, there is no advantage to his insanely deep repertoire. Where you may know that there are only two pitches you have to worry about with Archer, that slider will still generate swings and misses. If you know what Darvish is throwing, he struggles to make it out of the first inning.
Since returning from Tommy John, Darvish has not been his usual ace self either. He has given up more a hard contact rate of 33.1% and had a career-worst 10.08 k/9 during his 2017 campaign. By far, Darvish has had the worst year of his career and still hasn’t looked 100% since coming back from surgery. We know Chris Archer has his warts like my compatriot Austin has pointed out, but he is the guy for me when draft day decisions have to be made.
Verdict: To be Determined
Which pitcher do you prefer heading into the 2018 #fantasybaseball season?
Darvish- 3.86 ERA (3.5 bbFIP), 1.16 WHIP, 10.08 K/9, 19 QS,
Archer- 4.07 ERA (3.62 bbFIP), 1.26 WHIP, 11.15 K/9, 20 QS
— ap (@roto_perodeau) March 9, 2018
We asked you what you thought and the results were incredibly close, with Darvish edging the poll by just 4 votes. The real decision comes when you are on the clock with both names on the board and you have to make your choice. I hope Rhys and Austin highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of both players and they were able to help you decide which side of the debate you side with. Let us know which player you prefer, or who you thought made the more convincing argument on our twitter @Sixmanrotation