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On Yu Darvish’s weird exit and Doug Brocail

How the heck did the Rangers decide to take out their best pitcher with the game on the line?

Texas Rangers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I was about to hit the hay after a particularly frustrating Rangers game when I foolishly checked Twitter one last time. Now I can’t sleep.

If you don’t yet know the details, the Rangers were up 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning in Oakland with Yu Darvish dealing. In the top of the inning, the Rangers scratched and clawed across their two runs and sent Darvish back out having allowed just one hit on just 56 pitches.

26 pitches later, it was 2-2 with two on and one out. The game was not over. The Rangers and A’s were tied. Despite Darvish inexplicably losing command of the zone, this was the most important moment of the game. At 82 pitches, Jeff Banister walked out and took the ball from his stunned ace who clearly wanted to stay in and handed it to Tony Barnette.

It was super weird. It didn’t work, of course. And, truthfully, it was kind of a chicken shit move. I complained about the move. I got mad. The Rangers lost. And then I checked Twitter one last time.

Excuse me?

I recall a few balls smacked on a line at fielders but that’s going to happen in every game. Darvish only had four strikeouts, but he was also pitching efficiently. Better men and pitching minds than Brocail have been begging Darvish to do that since he got here.

Before the fateful sixth, Darvish had thrown 40 of 56 for strikes, a tasty 71% clip and had thrown 11 first pitch strikes to the first 15 Oakland batters. This looked like the beginning of one of Darvish’s better efforts.

So what happened? Did sitting on the bench for a long top of the inning throw Darvish off? Did he just lose it? Apparently Doug Brocail must have been grinding his teeth on the bench all night waiting to give him the hook.

Per Evan Grant:

“According to pitching coach Doug Brocail, Darvish didn’t adhere to the game plan of pitching inside early to Oakland hitters.”

I don’t get it, though. Brocail presumably is allowed to speak to Darvish between innings right? As Darvish was effortlessly gliding along, wouldn’t Brocail have been better served to tell him he wasn’t pitching to his specifications before everything imploded? Or is this just an easy way to throw Yu under the bus after making an inexplicable move in the heat of the moment?

And if he did implore Yu to listen to his masterful tactics, and Yu was just straight up “nah, I’m good” at him, does that mean his insubordination is a chemistry risk? Is he going to take the Kela Express to Round Rock for a month to make penance?

Also, what about Jonathan Lucroy? Is it not his responsibility to call the game and therefore adhere to the game plan? Was he complicit in Darvish’s coup? I honestly don’t recall Darvish shaking Lucroy off any more than normal, and if he were, isn’t it Lucroy’s job to go out there and get them on the same page.

Yu and Brocail’s own skipper didn’t seem to think Darvish was going off book through the first five innings:

Jeff Banister via Grant’s piece:

“He was brilliant, then got behind hitters. As good as he looked through five, the sixth just got extremely challenging on him.”

He was ‘brilliant,’ and yet Brocail couldn’t wait to take him out for not throwing the baseball where he thought he should from his perch a hundred feet away. He was “brilliant” but Banister’s right hand man was sitting there thinking about how he wasn’t following his game plan all night. Was he not sharing that info?

Obviously Yu’s sixth inning was a disaster and that’s on him. He’s not blameless. He was able to get a first pitch strike on just one hitter (not surprisingly, the one hitter Yu retired) out of five and threw 15 balls in his 26 pitches of the inning. He also allowed a game-tying home run to Adam Rosales, the most embarrassing of home runs.

After walking Yonder Alonso in an eight-pitch battle to put two on. That was it. According to Grant:

“At that point, Banister turned to Brocail who told the manager he’d seen enough.”

Having thrown 82 pitches, in a game he was dominating just five hitters previously, in a tied game, potentially within a pitch of getting out of the inning, cleaning up his own mess, and getting back on track for another inning or two, Brocail had seen enough.

You think Cole Hamels gets the hook there? Tie game? 82 pitches? No chance in hell. Imagine the Dodgers doing this to Clayton Kershaw or the Giants trying to take Madison Bumgarner out with a similar scenario. Bumgarner would throw Bruce Bochy into the Bay.

This is the kind of leash you have on A.J. Griffin who only has so many high spin rate curveballs in him every five days. But, no, apparently the front end of a struggling bullpen is more trustworthy than your damn Opening Day ace on just 82 pitches.

I get that he’s a TJS guy who had thrown 26 pitches in the inning already and that’s something the Rangers want to monitor/avoid, but you have to let him try to get out of that inning. You have to win or lose that game with Darvish.

I can’t grok to do otherwise, especially if it’s some kind of self-fulfilling I-told-you-so the pitching coach is stewing on all night while Darvish was busy allowing the minimum through five.

At some point, probably after this season, maybe sooner if the Rangers keep losing games like this one, Yu Darvish will finally escape this pitching blackhole of a franchise and go on to have like four or five god-tier seasons and it’ll be super depressing.

At least the Rangers will be able to bring in guys who listen about changing up what they’re doing to throw inside when they’re dominating, though, right?