The 2008 Sawamura Award

» 04 October 2008 » In npb, pitching »

Work and my upcoming home move have settled down a little bit, so it’s time to catch up on a little NPB bloggin’. There’s no immediate end in sight to my hectic schedule, but I’m hoping to be able to get back to posting 2-3 times a week. 

Let’s start the comeback with a look a this year’s race for the Sawamura Award. With apologies to Satoshi Komatsu and Colby Lewis, two pitchers have clearly separated themselves from the pack: Nippon Ham’s Yu Darvish and Rakuten’s Hisashi Iwakuma. Darvish’s regular season is over, while Iwakuma still has another start left, but we have enough numbers to compare. Here’s my fairly simplistic look at them head-to-head.

Selected Rate Stats

Yu Darvish 1.88 0.90 9.35 0.49 4.73
Hisashi Iwakuma 1.93 0.99 7.15 0.14 4.43

Darvish has an edge here, but it’s minimal. Both pitchers have sub-2.00 ERAs, sub-1.00 WHIPs, and 4+ K/BB ratios. Darvish has struck more guys out, but Iwakuma has better controlled the home run ball. Both guys have been outstanding by these metrics.

Selected Accumulated Stats

  Games Starts CG Shutouts No-walk CG Wins Loses Win % IP
Yu Darvish 25 24 10 2 2 16 4 0.800 200.2
Hisashi Iwakuma 27 27 5 2 3 20 4 0.833 195.2

Iwakuma has a big edge here in hitting the 20 win mark, becoming the first NPB 20-game winner since Kazumi Saito and Kei Igawa both did it in 2003. This is a particularly phenomenal achievement for a guy pitching for a last place team.

Darvish has been a workhorse, throwing 200 innings in just 24 starts. It should be noted, however,  that he threw two meaningless innings in Nippon Ham’s 17-0 drubbing of Rakuten in the Fighters’ last regular season game to reach 200.

  Hits Allowed HR Allowed K BB Runs Earned Runs
Yu Darvish 136 11 208 44 44 42
Hisashi Iwakuma 158 3 155 35 48 42

The WHIP numbers shown above give an indication of how unhittable these guys have been this year, and these totals underscore that further. Despite Iwakuma’s remarkable HR allowed total, overall Darvish has been even less hittable.

The Sawamura Award

The recipient of the Sawamura Award is decided by a panel of great NPB pitchers, who in part base their decision on the following criteria (courtesy of Wikipedia):

  • Games started: 25
  • Wins: 15
  • Complete games: 10
  • W/L Percentage: .600
  • Innings Pitched: 200
  • ERA: 2.50
  • Strikeouts: 150
With the exception of Iwakuma’s CG total (5), both pitchers meet all the criteria, or come so close that it doesn’t matter. So it’ll come down to what the selection committee values more highly: Iwakuma’s win total for his also-ran team, or Darvish’s general unhittable-ness.
Personally, my head says it’s Darvish but my gut says it’s Iwakuma. This would be an easier choice if the Fighters had scored a few more runs behind Darvish early in the season, but they didn’t. Iwakuma was consistent throughout the whole year and helped give Rakuten’s fans their first year of competitive baseball to cheer for. In the end, I think I’d go for Iwakuma. 

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  1. Patrick
    05/10/2008 at 7:58 am Permalink

    What a difference a week makes. When I picked Iwakuma in last week’s Pro Yakyu This Week, Iwakuma still lead the league in ERA. One bad game ruined that.

    The only thing that I really added to your evaluation above was looking at the complete games. Iwakuma was 4 and 1 in complete games (the one loss to Darvish’s 1-0 shutout over him and the Eagles), while Darvish was 6 and 3 (including one where he gave up a 3-0 lead in the top of the 9th only to win 5-4 in the bottom half). I don’t know if complete games losses count positively or negatively for a pitcher, though.

    I stand by my decision to go with Iwakuma, though. I agree that 20 wins will most likely be the deciding factor for many who cast their votes as it’s so rare these days (especially from a last place team).

  2. Patrick
    05/10/2008 at 12:22 pm Permalink

    What a difference a day makes. Iwakuma won his 21st last night, pitching six scoreless inning to regain the ERA lead by 0.01. I think that will seal the award for him.

  3. Patrick
    06/10/2008 at 12:32 am Permalink

    Darvish went to Beijing and play olympics.
    Because of that, Fighters are suck during that time.
    After he went back, he announced that he will win every single game. He did that, I really think he should be the sawamura winner

  4. Patrick
    06/10/2008 at 10:30 am Permalink

    Well then shouldn’t both of ’em win it like 2003 Igawa and Saito?


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