Chicago Cubs: Yu Darvish struggles reminiscent of a former Cub

(Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images) /

Following the latest dismal pitching performance from Yu Darvish, it’s easy to see flashbacks of another pitcher who struggled mightily to live up to his contract during his time with the Chicago Cubs.

Theo Epstein must be shaking his head right now in pure disbelief over what’s turning into an all-time disaster of a free agent signing. Yu Darvish, who was looking to forward to having a fresh start with the Chicago Cubs in 2019, following a lackluster, injury-filled season prior, ended up reliving his struggles all over again in his first start of this season against his former team, the Texas Rangers.

Darvish lasted just 2 2/3 innings against the Rangers, giving up three earned runs while walking a whopping seven batters. His lack of command was evident early on in the ballgame when he walked three batters in the first inning, despite being spotted by his offense with an early three-run cushion to work with.

Having signed a six-year, $126 million contract with the Cubs prior to the start of last season, Darvish has made a mockery of Theo Epstein and the entire organization thus far for their unwavering belief in him as an elite pitcher. Darvish’s inability to find the strike-zone, while struggling often to manage his in-game composure on the mound is raising major concerns over what the rest of his tenure with the North Siders will look like.

Fans who are resting uneasy over whether or not Darvish can put his struggles as a Cub to bed soon might be having unfortunate flashbacks of a former Cub, who like Darvish, struggled mightily living up to a big contract that Epstein blindly handed out.

Edwin Jackson, the former Cub who failed to live up to the four-year, $52 million contract he signed back prior to the start of the 2013 season, is a harsh reminder to this day of what can happen when an organization banks on a player who’s shown brief flashes of brilliance over his career, but more times than not fails to pitch with the type of consistency you’d like to see from a reliable starter.

Prior to joining the Cubs, Jackson had all the talent in the world to become a top-notch starting pitcher, yet only produced two solid seasons as a starter in 10 seasons as a pro up to that point, in large part because he was throwing mid-90’s fastballs blindfolded from the pitcher’s mound.

His lack of command held him back from being an elite pitcher, and when he ultimately put on his Cubs uniform, Jackson completely imploded as a starter during his first two seasons. The fact that he even lasted two full seasons as a starter while on the Cubs is mind-boggling, especially when you observe his stats from both 2013 and 2014.

Edwin Jackson notable stats as a Cubs in his first two seasons: 

2013: 31 games started, 8 wins, 18 losses, 4.98 earned-run average, 197 hits allowed, to go along with 59 walks issued in 175.1 innings pitched.

2014: 28 games played, 27 starts, 6 wins, 15 losses, 6.33 earned-run average, 199 hits allowed, to go along with 63 walks issued in 140.2 innings pitched.

Rather than build upon a dismal first season with the Cubs, Jackson actually found a way to regress even more in year two. It ultimately reached a boiling point within the organization prior to Jackson’s third and final season with the Cubs in 2015, when management determined before the season began that he’d be best off pitching from the bullpen, rather than as a starter.

Jackson ultimately was released by the Cubs that season, but his imprint on the organization now comes back in full-circle while watching Darvish pitch. The same problems that Jackson had as a Cub are evident in Darvish, despite the latter having a much more proven track record of success prior to signing with the Cubs.

Will Darvish end up being an even bigger bust than the signing of Jackson? Given how much more money Darvish is making now than Jackson, it is entirely possible.

To this point, Darvish has made just nine starts in total as a Cub, having thrown just 42.2 innings, while posting a 5.27 ERA, with 28 walks issued. On the bright side, he has struck out 53 batters, 11.2 per 9 innings, which indicates that Darvish still has “wipe-out stuff” within his pitching arsenal. Jackson, despite having elite “stuff”, never was known as a strike-out guy, which made his floor as a pitcher much lower than Darvish’s.

Of course, injuries do play a vital role in derailing promising careers of even the best players. Darvish has been a victim of the injury bug since joining the Cubs. Can he stay healthy for a full season now that he’s in his 30’s? Health may become the biggest factor in Darvish’s demise, if it fails to cooperate with him moving forward.

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Only time will tell what the future holds for Darvish as a member of the Cubs. His performance may very well make-or-break the Cubs’ World Series odds this season.

Epstein better be praying that he isn’t seeing Edwin Jackson all over again in the mold of Darvish. He very well might be biting his fingernails in sheer nervousness as we speak.