Is Yu Darvish the next Hideo Nomo?


Yu Darvish Pitches for Your Texas Rangers

YUUU!!!
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Yu Darvish made a little news yesterday jokingly saying to the media that the Yankees gave Masahiro Tanaka “too much” money.

Of course the media took that and ran with it, so as many people as possible could blow a gasket/get their undies in a bunch/flip their lid/whatever your preferred term is.  Yu later apologized, clarifying that he was joking.  Blah, blah, blah.  You know that story by now, I’m sure.  So, you’ll be happy to know that this is not the topic of this post!  Good news, eh?

All of yesterday’s hubbub got me thinking about Japanese pitchers in general, and how hyped and OVER-hyped many of them have been over the years.   My first thought now when I hear “Japanese pitcher” is Yu Darvish, obviously.  (Actually it’s more like ‘YUUUUUUU!!’ in my head, but you know what I mean).  But prior to 2011-year end and 2012, the names that came to mind were Hideki Irabu, (You may know him as Fat Toad.  I still like that one.), Hideo Nomo, and Dice-K.  I don’t have to tell you the hype that surrounded these guys when they first came to the league and even during their first few seasons.

The funny thing is, after remembering all of the fanfare, my next thought is “Man, that dude fell off fast”, about all of them.  I can very distinctly recall this order of events for each of those guys:

  1. Hype.  And lots of it.
  2. A Good/Great season or two.  (Sometimes All-Star stuff)
  3. An ERA of almost 5 in their third season.

It all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?  I mean, the Japanese League pitchers are hyped up by the media because of the massive success they’ve had in Japan.  They come here and dumbfound MLB hitters because they usually have funky deliveries paired with pretty good stuff, not to mention the fact that Big League hitters have never seen them.  Then, once the Big Leaguers get familiar with their stuff, they get rocked.  As Crash Davis said, “In the show, everyone can hit heat”.

So I just spent my day on www.BaseballReference.com (I hate when you guys twist my arm) trying to see if I just remembered that on my own or if the stats provided any proof for my thinking.

Here are the stats from BaseballReference.com for Irabu, Nomo, and Matsusaka in their first four seasons:

Comparing Irabu, Nomo, and Matsuzaka

Show Me The Numbers!

Add in a little number crunching from The Fantasy Wizard and you have:

Japanese pitchers increase their ERA on avg about a run in their third MLB Season

Does Anyone See A Trend?

Well lookie there… The Wizard is showing an average ERA jump of over a run for Irabu, Nomo, and Dice-K in year 3.  To clarify that’s an ERA a run higher than the average of the pitcher’s ERA in their first two years in MLB.  To make things worse, the jump is almost two whole runs in season four!

So I saw this and I got excited…I was shouting “I TOLD YOU SO!” from the rooftops…until I realized that the latest and greatest Japanese pitcher is on the roster of your Texas Rangers.  *insert panicked emoji*

So, what if we projected this average ERA jump for Yu Darvish?

What Can We Expect From Yu Darvish in Season Three?

What Can We Expect From Yu Darvish in Season Three?

AAAHHH!!  Ok, never mind.  I hate this theory.  Whose idea was this?!

Well, let’s first keep in mind that these estimations are crude.  Ballparks, opposing teams, type of pitcher…none of that has been considered.  But, still…it’s frightening isn’t it?  I personally can’t ever see Yu Darvish with an ERA over 5; I really can’t, definitely not if he’s healthy.  His stuff is just too good.  Surely there’s some saving grace here?

What do the Japanese numbers show

OH THANK GOODNESS!

And there it is.  Yu Darvish was over a run better than Irabu, Nomo, and Matsuzaka in the Japanese League; which I think shows how much better his stuff is in general.  So not to fear Rangers fans; I think we’re going to be A-OK.

I bet you’re wondering how Hiroki Kuroda snuck into that last image.  Well, I just wanted you to see that there’s always an exception.  Check this out:

There is always an exception

Hiroki Kuroda is the exception.

Now if Kuroda ain’t the model of consistency, I don’t know what is.  The guy’s ERA is almost always within half a run of the previous year, less actually.  Doesn’t that make you wonder why he came over with little fanfare?  He still, in fact, doesn’t get much media attention.  Maybe it’s due to the fact that he was already 33 years old when he came over.  The youth narrative is big in our media, especially in regard to professional sports; for obvious reasons.  His age might also be a huge factor in why he’s been so consistent since coming to the Majors.  Just in case you’re wondering, Kuroda wasn’t extremely special by comparison in Japan either; good but not any better than anyone else listed above.

Nevertheless, as baseball fans I’m sure we all know that even surprises aren’t really surprises in this game.  Every season, every game, every inning…brings something new.  So whether or not Yu Darvish is the next Hideo Nomo or just the first Yu Darvish remains to be seen.  Either way, there’s no way to predict it.

Lastly, if you’re wondering how Tanaka and Darvish compare to one another, let’s first think about what each team paid for the next great Japanese ace.  Your Texas Rangers paid a $51.7 million posting fee and gave Darvish a six-year, $60 million contract.  Their New York Yankees paid a $20 million posting fee and gave Tanaka a seven-year, $155 million contract.

darvish vs tanaka

Rangers 1, Yankees 0

Soooo…the Yankees paid an extra $60+ million for an ERA difference of .18?!  They definitely gave “too much”.

I’M JOKING!!

Aahhhh…full circle.

Tags: Featured Hideo Nomo Popular Texas Rangers Yu Darvish

  • Lee Stitzel

    Different data generating process…

    • Fantasy Wizard

      How so?

      • Lee Stitzel

        This article is a great idea, but it is assuming that the most important factor in a Japanese player that has come to the US is that he is Japanese rather than his skill set, age, experience, etc. Darvish is a different player than these guys. I would love to ask a specific question that factors out all of the relevant things, including those mentioned above, and then determines how much of a factor coming from Japan is for your MLB success. Steamer and Rotochamp, which use comps and statistics to project performance, are predicting Yu to have an ERA in the low 3s.

        • Fantasy Wizard

          Totally agree with the fact that there are other factors and if this were a white paper and not a fan blog I would have run some type of multivariate regression analysis adjusting for many of the factors including many of those you mentioned. But truth be told, how many TRUE comps are there? Probably the guys listed in this paper.

          But that was the fun part of the analysis, looking at this it a TOTAL bubble the fact that he is Japanese is all that matters, and using statistics (albeit simple statistics at that) to do so. That is probably why the author wrote, “Well, let’s first keep in mind that these estimations are crude. Ballparks, opposing teams, type of pitcher…none of that has been considered.”…just saying.

          Curious to see how all this plays out. My money is on the fact that the league has seen Yu for two years and he follows a similar (perhaps not as drastic) trend of his fellow countrymen and has an ERA closer to 4.0 than 3.0 this year.

  • Fantasy Wizard

    YUUUU!

  • JSalinas73

    I always think of Barney doing the Soldja Boy bit when I see Yu on the mound!

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