Darvish has proven himself as a star in the Japan, but it remains a question as to how well he would play in North America. In this post, I will be using his statistics in the JPPL as well as three other recent pitchers who made the transition to try to predict what Yu might do and how much he would be worth.
Five straight seasons of sub 2.00 ERA ball is pretty amazing, but it is difficult to figure out what exactly it means in MLB. The game is played a bit differently over in Japan, so direct transition of statistics may not be incredibly useful. Jim Albright came up with a rather interesting way to do this several years ago and I plan on doing something similar. I am not entirely sure that it is useful to convert Darvish's numbers using coefficients derived from player performance in the 1990s and early 2000s. I do not assume that the leagues have maintained their differences in performance. Because of this, I would want to use more recent performances.
I decided to take three recent transitions: Hiroki Kuroda, Daisake Matsuzaka, and Kenshin Kawakami. Here are there numbers in the three years prior to leaving Japan and what they were able to accomplish in MLB.
To create the coefficients, I pooled the performance of each pitcher by league. I then scaled each league to 1,000 IP. This resulted in the following coefficients:
Strikeouts: 1.079It should also be noted that by using three pitchers, park factors may play a large role in these numbers. Averaged park factors for Turner Field, Dodger Stadium, and Fenway Park were 1.02 for walks and 0.92 for home runs. This will need to be taken into account for Camden Yards that has a walk factor of 1.04 and home run factor of 1.14. This results in the following table:
Home Runs: 0.804
That is a very solid pitcher. Over the course of the next three years (assuming the prior assumptions are valid), Darvish would be worth about 20 WAR. That would be a succession of three Cy Young quality seasons. To be conservative, I think it would be fair to assume Darvish could potentially produce 20 WAR over five years, which would be worth about 120MM. That would be equivalent to a pitcher who would average as a 2/3 slot pitcher on a first division team. If I was the Orioles, I would consider bidding somewhere between 60-80 MM with the understanding that a contract would amount to a 5 or 6 year deal in the neighborhood of another 70 MM.
Extra Pitch F/X info
Based on Pitch F/X, Darvish throws seven different pitches: four seamer, two seamer, cutter, curve, slider, forkball, and change up. I think as a MLB pitcher his lesser offerings will be discarded. In Japan, he relies primarily on his four seamer and slider. Those will work well in MLB, particularly with right handed batters. In Japan, he often relied on his forkball against lefties, but I doubt that will play well over here. I think his primary pitches will be his four seamer, slider, and cutter will be the pitches that will likely make the transition, but I am not entirely confidant in my ability to say so. His four seamer works in the 93-95 range, the cutter comes in at 89-91, and his slider appears to have a lot of snap and sits at 81-83. However, it would not surprise me if he loses a few mph when he transitions because he will be pitching more often. In that case, I would expect his velocity to drop to the 91-93 range. That drop in velocity may make things look worse with an expected ERA of around 3.50, which would be right about what a 3 slot pitcher should be on a first division team. Looks good to me.