When the Cubs hired Jim Hickey to replace Chris Bosio as pitching coach, it was widely assumed that a reunion was in order. After all, Hickey and former Rays pitcher Alex Cobb weren’t shy about public expressions of their mutual appreciation of one another. Alas, that was not to be.
Hickey can’t be too disappointed, though, as he’s now going to have the opportunity to work with Yu Darvish. The coach joined MLB Network Radio Monday to discuss what he likes about his new charge.
“The pitchability — maybe that’s not quite the right word — but [Darvish’s] ability to just make a pitch, both sides of the plate, moving in both directions, everything coming out of his hand looks exactly the same,” Hickey opined. “They’re not similar pitchers, but he reminds me a lot of what Greg Maddux used to do.
“Every single ball that came out of Greg’s hand looked the same, whether it had a little bit of rise to it or a little bit of sink or a bigger break or a little bit of a snip on the changeup. And that’s what struck me about Darvish, everything is very, very well disguised and obviously the stuff is very good as well.”
Alright, smartass, you can go ahead and put down that bottle of Haterade before you take another big swig and start yammering about tipping pitches in the World Series. Yes, Darvish was revealing when he was going to throw his fastball. Yes, the Astros figured that out. But do you think that’s something only fans know about and that the Cubs won’t work to help Darvish correct?
And for both of you who may not yet know exactly what I’m talking about, the Astros figured out how to tell whether Darvish was throwing a fastball or breaking ball based on whether he re-gripped. Here’s a bit from SI’s Tom Verducci, who got the lowdown from one of the World Series champs.
According to a Houston player, the Astros often knew what Darvish was about to throw by the way he brought the ball into his glove in the set position. (Darvish pitches exclusively out of the stretch.) The player said it worked like this: Darvish holds the ball at his side when he gets the sign from the catcher. Whether he re-grips or not as he brings the ball into his glove was the tip-off whether he was going to throw a slider/cutter or a fastball.
That, my friends, is what Maddux would have called a “column of milk,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Being able to pour a handful of pitches toward the plate from the exact same release point makes it incredibly difficult for hitters to discern exactly what is coming at them.
We’re not going to see his jersey number flying from a foul pole at Wrigley six years from now, but I think the Cubs will be happy if Darvish comes anywhere close to making good on Hickey’s comp.