It's not often that a no-hit bid strikes such controversy, but last night's near-perfect, near-no-hitter Yu Darvish start did just that. It was more memorable than his first start of 2013 and more controversial than his 15-strikeout game at Houston later in the season. What can't be lost, not last night or any of the other Darvish masterpieces -- He was damn good, and the fact that Texas won the game is more important than some arbitrary no-hitter.
Whether the botched popup was Alex Rios's ball, or some perfunctory mistake from an excessively inexperienced 2nd baseman, Ron Washington summarized it best. The ball should have been caught. The official scorer has a job to do, and that mis-played popup in the top of the 7th specifically illuminates just how flawed the whole "error" vs. "not an error" paradigm operates. Baseball writers actually choose Gold Gloves winners based off how many errors a player makes! And it's official scorers like the official scorer in last night's game deciding what is and is not an error.
(To be fair, even though that play is ruled a hit 999 times out of 1000, I'm of the opinion it should be ruled an error.)
Yu Darvish, on the other hand... he's cruising. Last night's 8.2 inning, 1 hit, 12 strikeout performance netted him a Game Score of 92, ranking as the second-best start of his major league career. The only one topping that figure came in his near-perfect opening to 2013, where he went 8.2 innings, allowing a single to Marwin Gonzalez while striking out 14. His Game Score that night was 96.
Before the game got underway, Darvish ranked 18th in the major leagues in FIP-wins (fWAR) with +1.1; after dominating the Red Sox, he's up to +1.6 fWAR, 4th in MLB. In two seasons, Yu has basically been a 5-win pitcher -- which he's on track for again in 2014 -- but it's still kind of crazy to know that he's capable of producing a half of a win, about 10% of his annual production, in only one night.
After a relatively subdued first few starts, Yu has compiled 21 strikeouts over his last two outings, bringing his total up to 54 on the season -- 6th in the American League. Max Scherzer currently leads the junior circuit with 60.
Also worth noting, Darvish is currently 4th in the AL in strikeout percentage (28.4%), behind Scherzer (33.0%), Jon Lester (30.1%) and Masahiro Tanaka (29.9%). Because Darvish has slashed his walk rate down from 10.9% in 2012 and 9.5% in 2013 to where it is now (6.8%), his peripherals suggest this is probably the best overall pitcher we've seen in his two-plus seasons in Texas.
Perhaps best of all, though, is the Rangers are 6-1 this season in games Darvish has started. In 2013 Texas went 17-15 when Darvish was on the bump, and in 2012 they finished 19-10 in such games. This final stanza means absolutely nothing beyond the typical vagaries of baseball, but since I'm talking about my favorite pitcher in the world I might as well plug any reasonable information that may or may not apply.