Blog Entry

Darvish much better than past imported pitchers

Posted on: December 19, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 6:32 pm

By Matt Snyder

With Yu Darvish soon headed to America, the standard generalization from many seems to be that we have to lump him in with the other starting pitchers who have come over from Japan. Hideo Nomo and Daisuke Matsuzaka had good starts but didn't sustain it long-term (though Dice-K still has a chance to change that and Nomo had a very good year for the Dodgers late in his career) while Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa were unmitigated busts.

As unfair as it is to assume all pitchers coming over from Japan will be a bust based upon four cases -- and it's incredibly unfair -- it's even more unfair to assume everyone coming over is created equally. Look at the position players: Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki panned out while a decent amount of position players have failed to meet expectations. We need to judge every player on an individual basis.

With that in mind, here's a chart comparing Darvish's Nippon Professional Baseball stats with the four previous big-name starting pitchers to come to Major League Baseball. I used only the pitchers' last five seasons in Japan, as Darvish has only been in the league for five years. Also, I was unable to find hits allowed in every season for all pitchers so unfortunately we had to leave WHIP off the chart. I can tell you with much confidence, however, that Darvish's career 0.89 WHIP would have dwarfed the respective marks posted by the other four here.

Pitcher Years W-L IP ERA K/9
Hideo Nomo
1990-94 78-46 1051.1 3.13 10.3
Hideki Irabu
1992-96 46-39 787 2.87 9.8
Daisuke Matsuzaka
2002-06 63-33 814.2 2.62 9.3
Kei Igawa
2002-06 75-43 997.1 3.14 8.6
Yu Darvish
2007-11 76-28 1024.1 1.72 9.5

Seriously, just look at the ERA, winning percentage -- and again keep in mind his WHIP is greater by a large margin -- and ask yourself if you really want to use how those first four fared in America as a fair baseline for how the 6-foot-5 Darvish will translate. He's obviously been the much greater pitcher in Japan, so it's not fair to believe he's Fat Toad 2.0 ... or even Dice-K 2.0. Darvish is better than each of these four ever was. Period.

Sources: The Baseball Cube,, Sports Nippon and

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Since: Feb 15, 2007
Posted on: January 19, 2012 4:35 pm

Darvish much better than past imported pitchers

You have to assume that the talent level that Darvish is facing is far superior that of Dice-k's opponents from 2002-2006 and FAR FAR superior to that of Nomo's opponents in 1990-1994. Japanese baseball has gotten more and more competitive over the years. I think this dude could post a sub 3.50 ERA next year (on the road, he certainly won't be posting that at Arlington)!

Since: Jul 21, 2010
Posted on: January 19, 2012 10:17 am

Darvish much better than past imported pitchers

Very simple, he is not those guys. He is a big, strong, very talented athlete. There is no need to compare him with the others. Sometimes a player seems like he may be very good and actually is! Don't assume he will repeat someone else's path in the MLB. He might not turn out to be a CY Young candidate, but he might. Let's give him a chance before lumping him in with the others.

Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: January 18, 2012 5:30 pm

Darvish much better than past imported pitchers

- On the last line of my last post, I meant at $100 million over 5 years (the salary and the posting fee combined).  

Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: January 18, 2012 5:28 pm

Darvish much better than past imported pitchers

What is funny about Japanese players is this, we in American generally think they're still inferior in some way, though the truth is they are the better league and have been for 10 or 15 years.

Each time an all-star team goes and plays Japan, they get whipped.  Why?  Fundamentals.  Japan has them and each player in Japan is better overall than 80% of the players in MLB.  As for hitting, yeah, they have a bit less power up and down the lineups, no doubt due to their slightly less formidable statures, but what they lack in power they make for two-fold in putting the ball in play.  Unlike MLB players that are human fans on those hot summer nights, the Japanese hitter rarely strikes out in comparison.

We have basically all-or-nothing baseball now in the USA.  When we play other nations of decent history (playing for a few decades at least) we typically lose.  Why?  That all-or-nothing works great against inferior opponents and pitching, but typically these other nations best pitchers make our hitters look silly.  Too busy swinging for the upper-deck shot to get them in the highlights, they all too easily go down in flames.

So, all that said, I thinkDarvish is more than the real deal.  The only thing holding him back, if it even does, is the culture change.  Japan is a densely populated country, travel is not of great distances or time, but in the U.S. the travel can be tiresome.  The food in Arlington is quite different than anything he is used to consuming, I am sure, though the Rangers will be sure to accomodate him I am certain.  If his english skills are poor then he'll have trouble mingling and finding an acceptable social life outside baseball, at least for the first year or two.  All those things could weigh him down a bit on the field, it would weigh any of us down.  

I think he'll be an all-star this year, provided he maintains health.  With that hitting, he is as likely as any of their pitchers to be a 20 game winner.  I wish the Reds had him, but at $1000 for 5 years, not sure we could have afforded him, even with the backing of Warren Buffett.

Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: January 18, 2012 2:07 pm

Darvish much better than past imported pitchers

Complain much TheClass_rox? Next time we will try and not get excited about the Yankees while you are within earshot.

Nice run for the Tigers though. Another 5 years until their next playoff apperance. Buh bye.

Since: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: December 21, 2011 9:28 am

Darvish much better than past imported pitchers

Darvish put up great numbers in Japan no doubt and no one should question that but honestly how well does that compare to pitching in the majors?  I am very skeptical since I am a Red Sox fan and seen what happened to Daisuke Matsuzaka and how he has under-performed (based on his numbers here compared to Japan)

Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 11:53 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Oct 13, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:55 am

Darvish much better than past imported pitchers

Not one yank fan can criticize this move, so stop right there.  When the yanks got Hideki Irabu, it was like "Whoo hoo -- he's the one!  He'll be the best!  We will win it all"!!!!   Then, after the yanks posted nearly $50 MILLION themselves for the rights to Dice-K, they lost out to Bostons Bid and then yank fans tried to say "Aw, gee, we didn't want him anyway" ....

which is total bogus because if the yanks would have gotten Dice-K, they would have run in the streets saying the same stupid things all over again:  "Whoo hoo -- he's the one!  He'll be the best!  We will win it all"!!!!  
So enough with this "OMG" way of thinking as to how much money was ponied up just to land the rights.  yanks and other teams have been right there on the doorstep before of these same situations. 

So.... to recap ----- no yank title in 2012.  Another Detroit, Angels, Boston, or Texas beatdown to be issued to you.  HARD!

Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 12:50 am

Darvish much better than past imported pitchers

Fans of that team would be drooling. But again you do not pay minor league guys 100 million to come in and contribute either. So again is the money worth getting him if he is a at best 3rd starter for them?

Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: December 20, 2011 12:47 am

Darvish much better than past imported pitchers

All true. Just going hypothetical.

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