Fans at Thursday's Texas-Toronto game got a Yu Darvish bobblehead, complete with strikeout counter. (LM Otero/AP)
Aside from the start of Cowboys training camp, it may have been the summer’s most anticipated event in the Dallas metroplex: Yu Darvish Bobblehead Night. On Tuesday, Rangers fans lined up at the ballpark gates as early as 3 pm in the Arlington heat — four hours before first pitch. According to reports from the Dallas Morning News, less than an hour after the giveaway began, the bobbleheads were already going for up to $200 on eBay. The item --- complete with a strikeout counter --- received the most important seal of approval: "It’s very good looking, and I’m very satisfied," Darvish told reporters.
With Josh Hamilton gone, the gentleman from Japan is quickly becoming the most popular Ranger. He’s also become the most compelling, and entertaining, pitcher in the game. On Thursday night, the real Darvish took the mound and struck out nine Blue Jays — all nine on his slider — over seven innings. His latest no-decision — the Rangers lost 3-1 to the Blue Jays and fell two games back of the A’s in the West — left Darvish now winless in five starts, the longest stretch of his career. But don’t be fooled: he has raised his level this season, even after striking out 221 hitters in 191 1/3 innings in his dazzling rookie year, and there’s good reason to believe his best is yet to come.
Since 1900, just 15 different men have struck out 300 hitters in a season. The last to do so were Randy Johnson (334) and Curt Schilling (316), who reached the milestone as teammates on the Diamondbacks in 2002. Darvish is now on pace for 312 strikeouts in 34 starts, which would make him just the third 26-year-old in history to reach 300 (Rube Waddell and Nolan Ryan are the others).
Earlier today, Jay Jaffe laid out the NL candidates to start next month’s All-Star Game
. In the AL, Darvish is making his case: With a 7-2 record and 2.75 ERA to go with his major-league-leading 12.02 strikeout-per-nine ratio, he’s in the mix with Clay Buchholz, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Felix Hernandez. You could make the case for all these fine pitchers—but it’s clear what choice would make for the most compelling show.