20 October 2011

Translating Yu Darvish's Performance to MLB

As we showed earlier this week, the Orioles had by far the worst starting pitching in the American League.  This begs the question exactly how to improve such a poor area of the team.  John Stockstill has flown off to Japan to personally scout Darvish's final games in the Japanese Players League for the 2011 season.  The team also expressed interest last off season.  It is assumed that Darvish will be posted and will then enter into a contract with the winning team.  The Orioles, in fact, may be interested in making a splash.

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: 1.079
Walks: 0.553
Home Runs: 0.804
It 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:

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.


Anonymous said...

You forgot about the bigger ball in US against the ball used in Japan, that surely will take another mph and raise his ERA a little bit more

Reys said...


Actually the Japan baseball has been as big as the US baseball for quite a few years now.

es0terick said...

Actually he has an 8th pitch. Darvish can throw a shuuto.

Anonymous said...

A shuuto is a type of 2 seamer.


Anonymous said...

In your dreams Baltimore. No way in hell is Darvish, if he decides to come to the MLB, will sign with Baltimore. Plus, what if he just doesn't play out like Dice K did? That's a big contract to eat up for such a puny market sized team.

Anonymous said...

Its not a puny market, it is a puny owner and his approach to his team and his money. It don't matter what he spends on this team, MLB guarantees him a profit or atleast 3m a year as part of the Nats coming to DC deal. The franchise is at a point where they are about to fall totally off the relevancy map. He needs to do something now, Darvish and Prince would be a start. But then again he will get Posada and Wakefield instead. I don't think this will happen not for the market size but for the Owner's a douche and about to put the franchise into total irrelevancy.

Mouhamad Zareef said...

I've seen Darvish pitch a whole lot and he will translate well to the Majors depending on if his understanding of the strikezone. Many people don't realize that the strikezone in Japan is different because it favors pitchers more than it does hitters. That's why a lot of Japanese pitchers have good seasons because the zone favors them more. The good thing for Darvish is he doesn't depend on deception a whole lot like many Japanese pitchers do, he has a good feel for pitching and has good mound presence for a guy his age. I agree that his repertoire will be lessened should he come to the states, you can expect him to carry a 4-seamer, slider and change-up. Darvish will also use a 2-seamer to keep lefties off balanced and to get the necessary ground ball when needed while most pitching coaches don't like starters using the forkball because of the strain it puts on a pitcher, it's usually reserved for relievers/closers. He does throw a variety of sliders (similarly to Al Alburquerque from the Detroit Tigers) it will sometimes become a traditional slider to a slurve and sometimes to a sweeping curve, that's why you see varying mph reading on his breaking ball. To get a better understanding, this video: , shows what I'm talking about. The first 5k's are a varying slider that he throws, it's generally the same grip but he changes the points at which the pressure is applied on the baseball. I don't believe that he will lose any velocity on his pitching because where ever he ends up, expect to see a few tweaks in his mechanics to pitch more upright. If you watch him pitch he drives from his back leg at an 90° angle and Major League coaches will want him closer to 45°. All in all for Darvish if you were to factor in his feel for the game, the lack of innings put on him in Japan and his overall understanding of the game of baseball and he's a success waiting to happen.