Blog Entry

Failed imports may replace Darvish in Japan

Posted on: January 20, 2012 10:05 am
Kei Igawa Kenshin Kawakami

By C. Trent Rosecrans

If you're a Japanese team and you lose your best player to the big leagues, what do you do to replace him? Well, besides cashing a check for more than $51.7 million, you turn to former big-league pitchers.

The Nippon Ham Fighters (and once again, let me stress that it's the Nippon Ham… Fighters, not the Ham Fighters) are looking at former Japanese big leaguers Kei Igawa and Kenshin Kawakami, according to Daily Sports in Japan (via The Rangers hope it's not an even trade, as neither Igawa nor Kawakami lived up to expectations in the United States.

Igawa, 32, was posted after the 2006 season and the Yankees paid a posting fee of more than $26 million before signing to a five-year, $20 million contract with New York. For all that money, the Yankees got 13 starts and three relief appearances out of the left-hander, and he hasn't appeared in a big-league game since 2008. In MLB, he went 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA. Last year he was 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A. With the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Central League, he led the league in strikeouts three times and won the 2003 Eiji Sawamura Award, Japan's Cy Young equivalent.

Kawakami, 36, signed with the Braves as an international free agent in 2009, meaning the Braves didn't have to pay a posting fee. He won the Sawamura Award and Central League MVP in 2004. With the Braves, Kawakami was 8-22 with a 4.32 ERA in 41 starts and nine relief appearances in 2009 and 2010 before being outrighted to Double-A after the 2010 season. He struggled in Double-A in 2011, going 2-4 with an 8.41 ERA in 16 appearances (six starts) for Double-A Mississippi.

As Matt Snyder already pointed out, the fact that other Japanese pitchers have failed, doesn't mean Darvish will. Of course, that didn't stop our Taiwanese friends to make the comparison in one of their infamous videos, where Walker "Tex-xas" Ranger is handing over the checks to Darvish to face off Albert Pujols.

The Rangers will have a press conference with Darvish to make the signing official Friday night at 7 p.m. Texas time at Rangers Ballpark.

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Since: Jun 2, 2009
Posted on: January 24, 2012 10:59 pm

Failed imports may replace Darvish in Japan

Japan does strange things with sports news.

Since: Sep 2, 2006
Posted on: January 23, 2012 3:49 pm

Failed imports may replace Darvish in Japan

Putting out this kind of money for a Japanese pitcher is insane. The guy had great stats in Jpan. So what? He was facing maybe 1 or 2 AAA ability players in each lineup and the rest were AA or below. Only major league quality players he may ahve faces are FAILED major league players. Hell, the Fat Pussy Toad (George's words, not mine), Ideki Urabu had better stats than Darvish early on in his Japanesse league days.

Since: Feb 15, 2008
Posted on: January 21, 2012 8:46 am

Failed imports may replace Darvish in Japan

My thoughts exactly.  

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: January 20, 2012 3:21 pm

Failed imports may replace Darvish in Japan

Ichiro was an exception. So was Matsui, to a lesser degree. We're still waiting on THAT kind of Japanese pitching exception, and maybe it's Darvish...maybe not.  $100 million is a lot to gamble that he IS the first REAL exception- a Japanese starting pitcher that has the ability to step into MLB and be an ELITE player.

There are plenty of MLB quality players in Japan...there just aren't many that are of elite or even average MLB quality. It's not meant to be an insult, there aren't that many elite MLB quality players in AA or AAA either, but the ones that ARE in the U.S. minor leagues, don't cost $100 million before they ever play an inning, either. 

The impressive stats these pitchers put up in Japan just don't equate to MLB at all. Only a small percentage of Japanese hitters are even average MLB quality. Imagine what the average MLB starting pitchers stats would look like if they faced 1 average MLB hiiter, 1 AAA hitter, 4 double-A hitters, and 2 single-A hitters in every lineup they faced.  Their stats would look a lot more like Yu Darvish's than the average MLB pitcher's ...So, how many average MLB starting pitchers are worth $100 million ?  NONE.

I wouldn't pursue any Japanese pitcher if it required a posting fee.  It just doesn't make sense.

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