Keith Law on Darvish vs Strasburg

» 07 July 2009 » In mlb prospects »

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a high probability that you’ve heard of Keith Law. Keith is a veteran of Baseball Prospectus and the Toronto Blue Jays’ front office, and currently the lead baseball analyst for ESPN’s Scouts Inc. Keith took the time to answer a few questions on how Yu Darvish compares to Washington Nationals draftee, Stephen Strasburg.

NPB Tracker: How does Strasburg’s repertoire compare to Darvish’s?

Keith Law: Darvish shows far more pitches than Strasburg, who has four but spent most of the spring using just two.

NT: Who do you like better mechanically?

KL: I would say Strasburg – he’s easier and cleaner – although the sheer arm speed puts us into uncertain territory with Strasburg. We have little experience with starters who throw that hard and get their arms going that fast.

NT: If you had to choose one of the two pitchers for an MLB rotation this year, who would it be?

KL: I don’t think there’s a wrong answer here, but I’d take Darvish, given his experience facing a higher level of competition.

NT: Which of the two has the higher upside, and why?

KL: That’s a good question and I have gone back and forth on this. I think Strasburg’s fastball and hard curve rate well ahead of Darvish’s top two pitches, so I’d take Strasburg.

NT: Thank you Keith.


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  1. Patrick
    Jimmy Olsen
    07/07/2009 at 11:44 pm Permalink

    Strasburg might do better if the Nationals had a better environment. It’s time they let Teddy Roosevelt win the race, instead of stifling the efforts of this American hero.

  2. Patrick
    08/07/2009 at 3:44 am Permalink

    Great post.

  3. Patrick
    Tom Dubberke
    08/07/2009 at 12:44 pm Permalink

    Darvish is awfully good, but I think I’d rather have Strasburg for two reasons. First, Darvish has thrown an awful lot of innings at a tender age in Japan, far more than Strasburg threw in college. It’s rarely a good thing when pitchers in their early 20’s throw a lot of innings.

    Also, Strasburg is going to get a record signing bonus, but it won’t come close to the total money the Red Sox had to pony up for Diasuke Matsuzaka in posting fees and contract (about $103M), which I assume would be roughly Darvish’s total price if the Ham Fighters decided to post him.

  4. Patrick
    08/07/2009 at 2:07 pm Permalink

    Great interview. Fukudome just homered off of Kawakami. Here’s a quote from the Braves’ beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    That Fukudome homer off Kawakami has the Japanese pressbox contingent working feverishly.

  5. Patrick
    08/07/2009 at 2:12 pm Permalink

    Strasburg’s mechanics are the worst I have seen since Mulder & Davish has a great fluid motion. Law is an idiot.

  6. Patrick
    08/07/2009 at 2:32 pm Permalink

    I don’t know if I agree with you on Darvish’s motion, and I definitely don’t agree with your comment about Keith.

  7. Patrick
    08/07/2009 at 9:31 pm Permalink

    PWH — Fukudome & Kawakami were teammates for several years with Chunichi. They’re facing each other for the first time here in America.

  8. Patrick
    08/07/2009 at 9:48 pm Permalink

    Think there needs to be a correction there. Actually Fukudome and Kawakami faced each other on June 2nd in Atlanta with Kosuke going 1-3 with a single against Kenshin.

  9. Patrick
    08/07/2009 at 10:24 pm Permalink

    If Strasburg can throw 100 as a big league starter with another plus pitch or two, he is definitely going to have immense success. Darvish jumps at hitters and mixes his pitches very well. If you mix your pitches, especially quality ones like Yu, you are going to get hitters out. I say that both pitchers can be frontline starters in the big leagues but Strasburg has a bit more potential. Good analysis by Law.

  10. Patrick
    09/07/2009 at 12:09 am Permalink

    Some bullet points about this.

    1. First of all, I don’t see the point of this comparison. Darvish has been a pro for several years and Strasburg was just drafted. Yes, I am tired the connotation about Darvish everybody assumes for the basis of this comparison.

    2. I am also tired of hearing about the posting money of Matsuzaka. The Lions had all the rights to Matsuzaka at that point, and the Redsox bought them outbidding the others. If you want to include Matsuzaka’s posting money for his value, do the same with others including what a ball club has to give up for them (draft picks, stats of traded players, etc.) Just because money is something that is easy to quantify doesn’t mean that Matsuzaka should be an easy prey for criticism.

    3. Speaking of giving up, what compensation did the Dragons receive for the FA players, Fukudome and Kawakami.

    4. It doesn’t make much sense when a 16-year-old Venezuelan player can negotiate with all the ball clubs and Strasburg can’t.

  11. Patrick
    09/07/2009 at 8:00 am Permalink

    Some responses…

    1. The point of the comparison is that they are the best two pitchers in the world not signed to MLB organizations.

    2. Fair enough, but people are always going to bring that up when discussing Darvish (I don’t, but others will). And unfortunately, Matsuzaka will have to live with that $100mm expectation, even though he only got half the money.

    3. They received the full free agency term of service for both players. They could have gotten some money for either player by posting him earlier, but they valued keeping them on the team more highly longer.

    4. I agree. I actually think it’s time to get rid of the draft, but more on that later.

  12. Patrick
    09/07/2009 at 9:47 am Permalink

    3. is not about FA vs. posting, but about NPB vs. MLB team losing FA players to an MLB team. If draft picks don’t work across the Pacific, they should work something out.

  13. Patrick
    09/07/2009 at 10:17 am Permalink

    I argued for that in a post from last year, but thinking it through logically, the compensation obviously couldn’t be a draft pick and it probably couldn’t be a player under contract. That basically leaves cash, but anything over a few hundred thousand would be a deterrent for MLB teams to sign all but the top players. So I think it would be good, but it wouldn’t result in enough cash to significantly re-invest in the team infrastructure or development.

  14. Patrick
    09/07/2009 at 12:22 pm Permalink

    FA acquisitions are rarely effective ways of building teams within a country anyway. Does Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito ring a bell for Bay Area fans? If you want to talk about deterrence, I think monster FA contracts will be gone sooner than the draft.

  15. Patrick
    Billy McCoy
    11/07/2009 at 4:39 am Permalink

    Dear People:

    If you would quit analyzing mechanics and arm speed and body size you guys probably wouldn’t have missed on Tim Linecum. Screw the 100 MPH fastball. Unless the guy is going to be a closer he won’t have that velocity for more than five years anyway. So, here’s a how to judge a pitcher’s chance to be good in the major leagues as a starter:

    1. Can he throw 3 of the 4 pitches he needs for strikes at anytime?
    2. Are 2 of his pitches either overpowering or overnasty?
    3. With runners on base does he stay calm?
    4. After he has a bad outing does he restrain from treating a water cooler like Lionel Ritchie.

    If you can answer YES to these 4 questions a prospect has a 75% chance to pan out–with every NO knock off 25%.


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