Weighing in on the Darvish Rumors

» 05 September 2011 » In nichibei, npb »

Since well before I started this site in 2008, there have been persistent rumors in both the Japanese and North American media to the effect of “Yu Darvish will move to MLB this offseason FOR SURE.”

My role in this particular rumor mill over the last three years can be summarized with the below image:

To reiterate my position of the last few years, I’ve consistently predicted against Darvish moving to Major League Baseball, citing the following observations:

  1. Darvish had a pattern of adamantly disavowing any interest in playing in the Majors. This runs counter to other NPB stars like Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami, who openly talked about wanting to play in MLB years before they moved across the Pacific.
  2. Darvish will not be an international free agent until after the 2014 season. It doesn’t make sense financially or competitively for Nippon Ham to post Darvish until it’s clear that they have to.

If I do say so myself, I’ve been right about this so far.

But this year I’m changing my tune a bit. For the first time, I can see him getting posted in this immediately upcoming offseason. Here’s why:

  1. Darvish softened his stance on playing in MLB last year. It does seem that the Japanese media has mostly shied away from directly asking him about an MLB move though.
  2. Last year he admitted to having contact with big-name MLB agents. Last month MLBTR confirmed that he is represented by Arn Tellem and Don Nomura.
  3. He’s in the middle of his fifth straight crushingly dominant season, and is obviously unchallenged by NPB competition.
  4. He’s bulked up from 90kg to 100kg. In Imperial that’s 198 lbs to 220 lbs.
  5. He’s consistently working in the upper end of his velocity range, around 150-156kmph (93-97mph) and seems to challenging hitters more. I wonder if he’s putting on a show for the scouts, since he has shown that he is perfectly capable of dominating with lower fastball velocity.
  6. The number of scouts present at his games continues to increase. Logic suggests that at some point this is likely to become a distraction.
  7. He’s got three full years to go prior to free agency. If Nippon Ham or Darvish can’t get the right deal, they can call it off and try again next year.

There are probably others as well, but I’ll stop with those. I don’t think any one of those single things jumps up and screams “he’s getting posted!” but they all add up to hint that it’s possible. So I can see it happening.

Based on the information we have, I’d also say there’s a chance that Darvish won’t be posted this offseason. In the Japanese press, only the sleaziest gossip tabloids seem to really delve into the details of what might be behind a Darvish move; the more mainstream sports papers usually just report on the scouts that watch him. One of the tabloids, Shukan Playboy, actually did a pretty good job piecing together different bits of the story. Their main objective seemed to be gathering evidence in support of speculation that Darvish would wind up with the Yankees, but perhaps inadvertently, they included a point that seldom comes up in the North American media. An unnamed sports writer quoted in the article said “the possibility that Farsa (Darvish’s father), who is seeking the optimal business chance, could decide ‘the the time is not right’ is not zero.” I take anonymous writers quoted in Shukan Playboy with an appropriate measure of salt, but it’s an interesting counterpoint to most of the English language reporting we get on this topic.

So I could see it happening. I could see it not happening. I don’t think I’ll be surprised either way.

Tags: , ,

Trackback URL

  1. Patrick
    06/09/2011 at 1:02 am Permalink

    I think he will stay in Japan for at least one more season because I am sure Darvish wants to experience playing for Ham under a decent manager. Starting next year, a championship will once again be a possibility in Hokkaido.

  2. Patrick
    Dark Matter
    06/09/2011 at 10:27 am Permalink

    One thing to note as well is that he hasn’t been working out of the stretch at all for the past couple of starts. He’s been in the windup.

    Also in late August his rotation schedule changed from pitching once every 6 days to 5.

    Doesn’t mean he will post for sure but… I totally wouldn’t be surprised if he does now.

    Off topic: Darvish is a victim of so many ‘Baltimore-Chop-esque’ hits. 2 starts before the last one I swear there were like 5 of them in one game. The reason why I mention this is because it has effected his ERA. lol

  3. Patrick
    07/09/2011 at 9:25 am Permalink

    That is quite a fire you have going there…

    If he is posted this year, what do you think his posting fee will be like? I remember you saying before that you thought it might not be as high or higher than Matsuzaka’s, which is what most people are assuming.

  4. Patrick
    07/09/2011 at 12:10 pm Permalink

    Thanks for the analysis of Darvish. As an A’s fan my question is related to Hisashi Iwakuma. While he and the A’s could not work out a deal I understood he was a free agent after this year and would not need to go through posting. Is that true? Also, what is the word on whether he wants to come back and try playing in the US? Thanks

  5. Patrick
    07/09/2011 at 12:52 pm Permalink

    Thanks for the analysis of Darvish. As an A’s fan my question is related to Hisashi Iwakuma. While he and the A’s could not work out a deal I understood he was a free agent after this year and would not need to go through posting. Is that true?

    yes, this is true

    Also, what is the word on whether he wants to come back and try playing in the US? Thanks

    Yes, he intends to pursue an MLB deal and has hired the Sosnick-Cobbe agency to represent him.

  6. Patrick
    08/09/2011 at 5:52 am Permalink

    Saw an article I believe in the New York Times that sort of compared Darvish to Igawa. It did say that Darvish has more “upside.” Seems to me that this writer has never seen him pitch.

  7. Patrick
    Michael Westbay
    08/09/2011 at 7:42 am Permalink

    I humbly disagree with point #3: He’s in the middle of his fifth straight crushingly dominant season, and is obviously unchallenged by NPB competition.

    I think that Ma-kun is challenging Darvish very well.

  8. Patrick
    08/09/2011 at 8:27 am Permalink

    I think that Ma-kun is challenging Darvish very well.

    What I meant was that he’s been unchallenged by NPB lineups.

    Ma-kun is obviously having a phenomenal year of his own and is a lot of fun to watch. Darvish has always had one or two guys along side him in each of his dominant seasons, but there hasn’t been any single pitcher that has consistently performed at his level for the last five years.

  9. Patrick
    Dark Matter
    09/09/2011 at 5:43 pm Permalink

    I have this formula I have been working on. It places an emphasis on the win probability of a pitcher thus placing a better value (and it tries to remove the luck factor that you can never predict) Of course you never can but again, the formula tries. : P

    The closer you are to 0, the better.

    Darvish scores a 0.97 right now and Ma-kun scores a 0.98

    And the formula is correct as it stands right now. Darvish does indeed have more wins and even though the ERA says otherwise, Darvish is better than Ma-kun. But Ma-kun does have potential. He just has to prove it for more than one season.

    Of course you could ask a simple question to find your answer. If you had a must win game, which pitcher would you rather have, Darvish or Ma-kun? For me the answer is obvious. Darvish.

    (If anyone wants the formula, just say so. : P)

  10. Patrick
    Dark Matter
    09/09/2011 at 5:47 pm Permalink

    Woops, I should really check my posts before submitting them.

    In the first paragraph I meant to say, ” It places an emphasis on the win probability of a pitcher thus placing a better idea on how valuable that pitcher is.”

  11. Patrick
    09/09/2011 at 9:05 pm Permalink

    Sounds like you may have just a bit too much free time, Mr./Ms. Dark Matter.

  12. Patrick
    Dark Matter
    09/09/2011 at 9:45 pm Permalink

    You are correct EJH. : (


    For the record, It’s Mr. Dark Matter. : P

  13. Patrick
    09/09/2011 at 10:06 pm Permalink

    Thank you for the clarification, sir.

  14. Patrick
    14/09/2011 at 9:14 pm Permalink

    That’s an interesting concept Dark Matter-san. Are you planning on publishing that anywhere when it’s done?

  15. Patrick
    Dark Matter
    15/09/2011 at 1:05 am Permalink

    Maybe. I am still trying make sure the numbers are actually accurate and relevant. I actually added a new factor to the statistic though (since it does matter) and the results have changed… But Darvish is still ahead of Ma-Kun. Darvish now scores a 0.86 and Ma-Kun scores a 0.88.

    The new factor I added in was Homeruns allowed. Should I factor in wild pitches and hit batters too? I don’t want to because the idea behind this is to try to give you an idea of a pitchers value and those two things can easily change drastically every year.

    But yeah, I guess now is a better time than ever to post the formula. I claim it as mine anyway. : P

    Here it is.

    ” ((Hits+Walks)/Innings Pitched)+Earned Runs/9/(Strikeouts/9)*(Homeruns)/(Inning pitched/9) ”

    I want to keep this post as short as possible but I will use a comparison.

    Who better than Daisuke Matsuzaka? Ok in 2005 he scored a 0.99 and in 2006 he scored a 1.08.

    And here are some MLB stats. Justin Verlander is having an amazing year and yet at the MLB level he is scoring a 1.13. Still amazing. But I guess that truly tells you how dominant Darvish and Ma-kun are.

    Better yet, how’s this. I tried to find one of the best seasons by a starting pitcher ever. Pedro Martinez’s 2000 season scored a whopping 0.84… In the MLB (especially during that time) that is simply ridiculous.

    (Sorry for the long post) I also will show you last years CY Young award results. Prepare to be surprised.

    Last years AL winner was Felix Hernandez and deservingly so. He had the lowest score of a 1.22. But guess where CC Sabbathia (the runner up) came? Many people said he should have won because he had more wins but… he does play for a great offense and well, this proves it. He should have came SIXTH in voting with a score of 1.56! Jered Weaver scored the second best with a 1.37.

    You think that’s bad? The NL gets worse! Josh Johnson scored a 1.19, Adam Wainwright scored a 1.22, Ubaldo Jimenez scored a 1.29, Roy Oswalt scored a 1.30, and the CY Young Award winner Roy Halladay scored a 1.31!

    I will agree though that Josh Johnson didn’t deserve the award because though he qualified, he pitched much less innings than everyone else on that list. So if we were to go by my stat, Adam Wainwright should have won. But using this for giving a CY Young award would be stupid. Again, it’s simply trying to place a value/win probability of a pitcher into perspective.

    I hope this sheds a light on what this stat represents and sorry for the wall of text.


  16. Patrick
    Dark Matter
    15/09/2011 at 1:08 am Permalink

    I forgot to include a really bad sample. John Lackey. He is scoring a 2.89 this year. Yeah…

  17. Patrick
    15/09/2011 at 7:09 am Permalink

    Hey Dark Matter, neat stat, is there a number for minimum number of innings pitched to calculate for relievers… thanks.

  18. Patrick
    Dark Matter
    15/09/2011 at 7:58 am Permalink

    I should mention that this does work best in larger samples sizes, much like WHIP. And again, I wouldn’t actually recommend using this for giving awards so I think a minimum innings pitched wouldn’t be necessary.