You know how catchers paint their fingernails so their signs are more visible and how they run out to the mound to clear up any mixed signals? Yeah, that’s when the pitcher in question can throw three or four pitches. Maybe five. Yu Darvish has more than twice that, according to Chris Gimenez.
“Six of the 11 are different fastballs that he throws,” Gimenez told Gordon Wittenmyer (lots of solid info there, so check it out). “When I first started catching him, his interpreter at the time came up to me and said, `This is what he throws: this, this, this, this and this.’
“I literally looked at his interpreter and I was like, ‘Man, I only got five fingers.'”
Under other circumstances, such a wide variety of pitches would serve as something of an all-you-can-eat buffet. Mmm, Ponderosa. Except that you can run into issues, whether it’s paralysis by analysis or gorging yourself on the more filling items only to let some undiscovered gems go uneaten, more doesn’t always mean better.
That might be intimidating to some coaches, but the Cubs’ Mike Borzello is diving headfirst in Darvish’s pitch mix with the bottomless appetite of an indiscriminate Golden Corral diner. Except, you know, with a little more discernment.
“When you have five weapons and you’re able to use those in specific areas and sequences in the way you want to, yeah, that’s a dream,” Borzello gushed to Wittenmyer. “I mean, you don’t see that. You just don’t see a five-pitch mix guy where across the board it’s all plus.”
It’s like finding one of those buffets that not only has perfect fried chicken, but delicious crab rangoon and beef enchiladas and even veal piccata as well. And somehow finding room in your stomach to enjoy them all. It’s all about being patient and having the willingness to think outside the box a little bit.
“To this specific hitter, what you perceive to be your worst pitch now becomes maybe your second-best pitch,” Borzello explained. “That’s the stuff that I try to make guys understand.”
As basic as that seems, it’s sort of a big thing when you’re talking about convincing a master practitioner of his craft that everything he thinks he knows might be wrong. Or at least that some of what he knows might not be entirely right. And that’s how Borzello and the Cubs could really help Darvish to take off.
More than any other pitcher they’ve had, maybe more than any on the planet, Darvish offers the perfect opportunity for the Cubs to maximize their holistic approach to the game. Now it’s all about finding the right balance.