Yu Darvish's third big league season got off to a late start after a stiff neck forced him to be scratched from his opening day assignment. He was able to return to the mound on Sunday for the Rangers battle against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, however, and it didn't take him long at all to make an impact and officially etch his name in the history books.
Darvish entered the game two strikeouts shy of 500 for his career, and after starting the first inning by striking out both David DeJesus and Wil Myers, he became the fastest player to reach that milestone in MLB history.
Yu Darvish is the fastest to 500 Ks in MLB history, done in 401 2/3 innings. #Rangers
— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) April 6, 2014
The previous record was held by Kerry Wood, who reached 500 strikeouts in 404 2/3 innings.
How does a pitcher accumulate so many strikeouts in a such a short time? Obviously, he has to have dominant stuff and good command, but above all else he has to have confidence. Considering Darvish changed professional leagues — moving from Nippon Professional Baseball to MLB — and countries in the prime of his career, he obviously has the necessary confidence. There wasn't a whole lot of time to prepare for new competition or make adjustments. He just had to believe his stuff was good enough to succeed.
So far, it has been plenty good.
After recording his 500th strikeout, Darvish had a career strikeout rate of 11.20 per nine innings pitched, which is a good number for a reliever, but is almost unheard for a starting pitcher given that they tend to wear down as the game goes along.
Another phenomenal stat that highlights Darvish's dominance. In 61 career starts prior to Sunday, he struck out 10 or more batters in 20 of them.
He's definitely lived up to the immense hype so far, and at just 27, it feels like the best is yet to come.
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