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  1. six or seven pitches for strikes? that’s impressive

    Comment by David — March 25, 2010 @ 5:22 pm

  2. The real question is does he throw a gyroball?

    Comment by Damon — March 25, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

  3. If you saw the WBC, you know Yu Darvish’s slider is as nasty as it gets.

    Comment by Bill — March 25, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

  4. In that case the answer to the real question is no.

    Comment by Patrick Newman — March 25, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

  5. I can’t imagine there would be much “anti-Iranian” sentiment – it’s not like the guy is an outspoken proponent of the Ayatollah or has been calling for Jihad against US troops in the middle east. Sounds like he may just be worried about fitting in / being different esp after what he went through in Japan. japanese are less acceptable of “outsiders” than western countries from my experience.
    vr, Xeifrank

    Comment by Xeifrank — March 25, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

  6. I hope he stays in Japan at least until they change the posting system, because if they don’t, then the bidding will just get out of hand if his club ever agreed to post him. I could imagine a bid of 80-100 million dollars if he were ever to be posted.

    I would like to see them come up with a system whereby more Japanese players would be free to leave but it doesn’t become simply a bidding game for the best Japanese players among the rich MLB teams.

    Comment by CaseyB — March 25, 2010 @ 6:04 pm

  7. Yes, there is has been so much backlash against that Northern Iowa guard — only a jihadist would have taken a three in that situation!

    Comment by Tom — March 25, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

  8. That shot did have me saying something starting with “Holy.”

    Comment by thehemogoblin — March 25, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  9. In addition to the five I mentioned by name, he has a changeup and a cutter.

    Comment by Patrick Newman — March 25, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

  10. Once he sees the money, he won’t be able to say no.

    Comment by JoeS — March 25, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

  11. I doubt the MLB, at whatever price, can buy Darvish until he’s on the older side, though he might jump to MLB rather than go to the NPB Giants.

    Also, I believe he is unlikely to ever go to the US unless his wife also decides she wants to.

    He and Iwakuma are easily top-bracket MLB starting pitchers.

    Comment by pinball1978 — March 25, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

  12. Great article Patrick,

    I doubt the part-Iranian sentiment would really matter much in MLB. Anyway I would hope we as a country are over 1979. IMHO, MLB fans would welcome him openhanded. My bet about Darvish is there is more he wants to accomplish in NPB before he goes to MLB, if that is even is ultimate wish. If he stays in NPB, then that ultimately is better for the league down the road not to lose its all-stars as Darvish I argue is its face. Though, I like to see him in MLB in his prime too.

    Comment by John Brooks — March 25, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

  13. You know more about the guy than I do, so I’m not going to disagree, but those strikeout numbers seem pretty concerning to me. If he’s not missing an absurd numbers of bats and is relying on getting batters to hit weak balls in Japan, it seems like he might have some significant problems switching to the MLB.

    Comment by TWA — March 25, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

  14. I think he might be pitching more to contact in order to go longer into games.

    And Japanese starters only pitch once a week, so their overall innings count isn’t all that different from their MLB counterparts. Not sure if concentrating 120+ pitches in one outing per week instead of having 1.2 outings of 100 pitches each is better. It probably hasn’t been proven one way or the other.

    Comment by simon — March 25, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

  15. The posting system seems to work well in soccer. Plus it’s probably good in the long run for Japanese players as not only do they get a percentage of their transfer fee but they will also get more money and longer contracts to keep them from leaving for nothing or at the peak of their value.

    Comment by Tom — March 25, 2010 @ 9:23 pm

  16. If you want to see some of his stuff – check this out. It’s actually a older Video maybe 2-3 years ago, but this is what he is all about. Can you imagine he got better than what’s show here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqul1GyK7-g

    Check out my Fantasy League – The Mid-West Baseball League at:
    http://www.straybaseball.com/mwbl/

    Comment by Stray — March 25, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

  17. Agreed about the Anti-Iranian sentiment. I have four Iranian cousins who live in the US (red neck Florida area) and not a single one has ever faced those negative feelings. I think most Americans are smart enough to separate an extremist oligarchy from their citizens/subjects.

    Comment by cubfanraysaddict — March 26, 2010 @ 12:26 am

  18. Simon/TWA, your comments tread the same ground so I’ll respond to them both here. I think what would be interesting would to look at his strikeout totals for games where he’s thrown over 120 pitches versus games he’s thrown less than that. Darvish struck out 13 on opening day, when he threw 147 pitches in a complete game loss. He’s capable of racking up K’s but he’s also capable of being more economical with his pitches.

    And btw, nice to see you here Simon :)

    Comment by Patrick Newman — March 26, 2010 @ 12:31 am

  19. Soccer has multiple leagues in Europe that are on similar economic footing. NPB’s financials don’t quite measure up to MLB’s. And the players don’t see a dime of the posting money, their contracts are negotiated directly with the acquiring team.

    Comment by Patrick Newman — March 26, 2010 @ 12:36 am

  20. That’s just nuts!

    I hope someday we get to see him play more; whether that’s through an MLB team, an NPB.tv-type setup (with translation, preferably), or a US-JP World Series, I don’t care. I just want to see him more than once every WBC blue moon.

    Comment by Bradley — March 26, 2010 @ 12:44 am

  21. I think there’s also something to be said for this: the fools inclined to making blanket and false assumptions about Darvish based on his ethnicity would not likely even realize he is Iranian. To such people, the shape of a face or the style of one’s clothing defines ethnicity, and in those respects, Darvish is indistinguishably Japanese.

    Comment by Bradley — March 26, 2010 @ 12:50 am

  22. Keep in mind that I qualified that as speculation and pointed out that I can’t quote on him on that particular issue.

    What I was trying to do was underscore the fact that he’s a unique talent from a unique background, and as such may have an uncommon perspective on his environment. Publicly, he always displays a commitment to being in Japan.

    Comment by Patrick Newman — March 26, 2010 @ 12:52 am

  23. If connects not wanting to leave for MLB with memories of trying to fit in in Japan by playing baseball, isn’t it possible that he’s not thinking about American attitudes at all, but only about the possible perception in Japan? That if he left, people might say “oh, he’s not really Japanese after all.”

    I’m not asserting that people in Japan WOULD say that, but just thinking – if he’s worked so hard to prove that he belongs there, he might be extra concerned to show that he’s loyal to Japanese baseball and Japanese fans.

    My impression is that Japanese baseball fans are generally proud of their players that come to the Majors and succeed here, but surely they must have somewhat mixed feelings about seeing their best players leave to play in another country.

    Comment by Trojancobbler — March 26, 2010 @ 12:56 am

  24. What is the velocity difference between his cutter and his slider?

    Also, how do you tell the split from the change?

    This site’s algorithms, and by extension a lot of people who put stock in them, are terrible at pulling apart splits from changes and sliders from cutters. Some of it is a matter of interpretation.

    Besides, while a huge arsenal like that works well in the Japanese game because slight variations in velocity and movement tend to get the hitters, who are taught to put the ball in play above all else, off balance, it sure hasn’t played well in the states. You have Dice-K throwing slider after slider after curve and getting 3-0 on a guy because here, the good players let the bad pitches go by. So for me, it’s a lot easier to get excited about someone real raw with at least one truly outstanding pitch (say, Chapman and the mid 90s fastball) over Jimmy Junkballer with five “above average pitches” that play up in his league because he’s facing Placido Polanco and Juan Pierre for most of the order.

    CMW was a guy who came over with a truly plus plus pitch and he rode that one pitch for a long while. Dice-K throws the kitchen sink and doesn’t do anything with any of it. I’ll take the former over the latter because I think it better suits the American game.

    Comment by Eric Cioe — March 26, 2010 @ 1:17 am

  25. High 80’s on the cutter, low 80’s for the slider.

    He throws the forkball/splitter at a higher velocity than the change and it breaks straight downward.

    You can get a sense of how he mixes things up by thumbing back through his games from last season:

    http://npbtracker.com/data/index.php?team_id=3&pitcher_id=242&pitcher_name=Darvish,+Yu&date=2009072204&action=Get+Chart

    I built those charts by aggregating data from Japanese sources. I don’t claim it to be gospel truth but it’s reasonably accurate and it gives you a sense of what he throws and how it compares (velocity wise) to other pitchers in Japan.

    Comment by Patrick Newman — March 26, 2010 @ 1:33 am

  26. Another thing to note: Yu Darvish’s parents met while they were students in America in the late 1970s. His dad loved his time in America and has expressed his desire to see Yu play in MLB.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=darvish

    Comment by Decatur — March 26, 2010 @ 3:32 am

  27. I’m leaving Sapporo next week after 3 years here. Going to miss watching Darvish make dudes whiff so hard they nearly fall down (which seems an occurence unique to Japanese baseball…). Hope someone can convince him to go to MLB if the choice comes to that or the Giants.

    Comment by Marlowe — March 26, 2010 @ 4:39 am

  28. The more ethnically homogenous a country is, the less accepting they probably are of outsiders, just generally speaking. I don’t think it has to do with a certain region or country, necessarily, just a human reaction. If you are around all white/black/asian/latino people your entire life and a person who looks completely different walks in, it’s gonna be noticed. :o

    Comment by ChadMOKM — March 26, 2010 @ 8:29 am

  29. “if he’s worked so hard to prove that he belongs there, he might be extra concerned to show that he’s loyal to Japanese baseball and Japanese fans.”

    And I don’t even think this is necessarily about being accepted – my impressions of Japan (I’ve visited there and know people who lived there) is there’s a lot of national pride there and most Japanese fans/teams/players would prefer to keep the Japanese league as talented as possible, which makes a lot of sense. So I do think there’s probably pressure on him to stay simply because he’s talented and they’d rather have him in their league. If a talented American like Lincecum (or whoever else) left MLB to go play somewhere we couldn’t watch him play anymore, we probably wouldn’t be too happy about that, either*….

    *Better example would be like the rumors going around a year or two ago that one of the Euro teams might try to offer Lebron a ridiculous contract NBA teams couldn’t match, I know I’d be upset if they lured Lebron away so we couldn’t watch him play here, and I’m no Cavs fan…

    Comment by B — March 26, 2010 @ 10:03 am

  30. “Going to miss watching Darvish make dudes whiff so hard they nearly fall down”

    I remember a particular at bat where Lincecum did this to Swisher (and he did actually fall down)….

    Comment by B — March 26, 2010 @ 10:05 am

  31. I recently moved to Japan and am becoming a fan of NPB baseball on top of being an MLB freak. This article actually made me make my first post on fangraphs!

    Anyway, I believe his strikeout rate is not a concern due to two factors:

    1) He does try to pitch to contact for the reason to stay in games.

    2) Batters in Japan tend to hit for contact and the amount of slap hitters are far more frequent than homerun hitters.

    The second point especially makes it seem that if given a chance in MLB (with the amount of hitters who swing for power more than just putting balls in play any way possible) his strikeout rates will become closer to the rates of a dominant ace.

    The main concern I completely agree with is the pitch count. Japanese coaches and teams run their pitchers into the ground. My father-in-law and I have spoken in length about baseball over here and a lot of their philosophies are amazing. And in my view amazingly wasteful of god-given talent. The stories of Matsuzaka pitching over 200 pitches in a highschool game gives the sense of what the Japanese care about pitch counts. From what I’ve heard, at 30 years of age the Japanese pitchers are pretty much burned out.

    It’s amazing to see how much talent these players have, because I get to see them in their prime here. Hitters like Ichiro often come to America after their prime years in Japan. For Ichiro he wanted a challenge. For most pitchers (besides Nomo and Matsuzaka) their age and downhill trend here forced them to play in America where they can get more money because Japanese baseball won’t pay them enough. This is more of the opinion of my father-in-law as I have yet to study NPB for more than a half of a season. But if true, I do find it sad we rarely get to see pitchers or hitters in their prime from Japan. I’d love to see what Ichiro could have done in the MLB from the age of 25.

    C’mon Yu, show us what you’ve got!!! Come to America early and see if you are truly a legit ace of the world.

    Comment by DTFT — March 26, 2010 @ 10:08 am

  32. how’s his control, can we see some walk rates please?

    Comment by SF 55 for life — March 26, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  33. This article from January 1st seemed to show Darvish as more open to the idea of playing in America, and the Fighters willing to respect his decision if he wanted to leave.

    http://www.nikkansports.com/baseball/news/p-bb-tp0-20100101-581539.html

    Comment by M.S. — March 26, 2010 @ 11:00 am

  34. Maybe he just know how the posting system works and just doesn’t want to play for the Yankees. If so, good for him.

    Comment by Bradley — March 26, 2010 @ 11:01 am

  35. @Patrick: you wrote this a few posts above: “Soccer has multiple leagues in Europe that are on similar economic footing.”

    to say it short and simple: not true. I’m from Germany and am a football fan (u may call it soccer, people in Europe hate that word) for over 20 years now. If something isn’t similar in European football then it’s the economic footing. tbh: it’s the biggest problem in many European sports nowadays, especially in football (“soccer” ;) ).

    b2t: I haven’t seen Darvish pitch often but what I’ve seen is very impressive and promising. If any Japanese Pitcher ever will worth Dice K’s money it’ll be Darvish.

    Comment by dancariaz — March 26, 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  36. Okay, point taken. My perception has been that, football leagues in Spain and England (to use an arbitrary example) are more comparable in terms of financial resources than NPB and MLB. I don’t think the system of transfer fees that exists in European football would work well for baseball for the purposes of talent distribution. Your point indicates that it doesn’t work well in foot ball either. I would love to learn more about this subject, btw.

    Comment by Patrick Newman — March 26, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

  37. I don’t believe there would be much anti-iranian sentiments because of how I think Americans would identify his ethnicity on a visceral level, which I believe would be primarily Japanese.

    He would be a player coming from Japan, who looks Japanese to Americans (I’m sure to Japanese though he looks like a gaijin), has a Japanese sounding first name, Yu, and has a last name that is not readily identifiable as either Japanese or Iranian, Darvish.

    Comment by Spencer — March 26, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  38. The Iranian background could work in his favor, especially in a city like Los Angeles (aka “Tehrangeles”), where you have a large Iranian population, and especially in Iranian areas like Beverly Hills.

    It’s not as though anybody hated on Andre Agassi for his Iranian background.

    Comment by Mosha — March 26, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

  39. I’d really like to explain more of that stuff but it would take days, weeks, perhaps months. If you don’t witness that crazy stuff happening here day by day than you can’t imagine or understand that.

    btw: the posting system isn’t bad but there are simply no restrictions. In some countries like Spain or England teams can even spend money they never had or will have in the future. Like Real: spent over 200 millions € for players last offseason even though they already had hundreds of millions of debts. Or ManU: almost a billion € of debts. It’s just ridiculous but somehow it’s possible in some countries. In a country like Germany they wouldn’t even be allowed to play because there teams with debts are punished so hard. If every team would only be allowed spend the money they have everything could be better. Still not perfect but a lot better.

    Comment by dancariaz — March 26, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  40. The posting fee I figure is mainly for 2 things:

    1) To compensate the team for losing said player, and
    2) To make it prohibitively expensive for US teams to get said player.

    If there’s one thing the NPB owners don’t want, it’s to see talent go overseas to the US because they’re afraid it will water down their product. That’s why as a whole almost all 12 NPB teams pushed to keep Kikuchi Yuusei in house (which they succeeded).

    I don’t imagine seeing the posting system changing unless they find another way of keeping talent domestically.

    Comment by KaminaAyato — March 26, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

  41. To the Padres for 10 yrs. 187 mil. (no trade clause salary becomes 145 ) he becomes their best pitcher off the bat.

    Comment by -------- — March 26, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

  42. Has it been mentioned that his contract for this year was about $3.3 million American? If he’s already getting the best money in the NPB (or close to it) then he would really have to want the $10-12 million he would get in the USA. And there’s a lot more to that decision than just the money. I think the fact that his wife is a popular actress/model/talento has something to do with this. She would have to pick up stakes and move to a foreign land and give up her career if he moved here.

    As far as he’s concerned, he’s as good-looking as any Japanese male I’ve ever seen, very tall and could make tons of money doing endorsements too, especially if he became popular. Which he would as he’s about the best pitcher in the world right now. I know his dad speaks fluent English because I’ve seen him in the docu about NPB, I presume his mother speaks it too since she was an American student. Anybody know how good Yu’s English is? The funny thing about the Japanese is that they are all required to take it in school but no one seems to know how to speak it very well.

    Comment by CubfanKJ — April 4, 2010 @ 12:54 am

  43. Yeah – and Andre Agassi better never show his face around again. Please.

    Comment by gnomez — May 1, 2010 @ 1:55 am

  44. 2.2 BB/9, 8.3 K/9, 0.4 HR/9 last year.

    There’s no question he’s a good pitcher but after watching him in the WBC I don’t get the feeling he’d dominate in MLB.

    I can’t put my finger on it, but nothing really seemed overpowering about him. His stuff was good, control was alright, and placement seemed decent. I just couldn’t find anything worth getting terribly excited about.

    He does have a nice, smooth delivery though. It was comparable to the way Scherzer hucks balls over the plate at 95 MPH without looking like he’s even trying.

    Comment by pchk — May 1, 2010 @ 2:50 am

  45. Darvish is pretty clearly Iranian (to people familiar with Iran or Iranian names), for what it’s worth

    Comment by esk — June 17, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

  46. Cub: Most Asian nations require English as a class in primary school, but it’s ONE CLASS. This is the equivalent of teaching students in Texas Spanish language courses in elementary school. That said, the Japanese nationals tend to be VERY good at understanding English. The requirement of a translator is generally for the semantic nature of American-English. Pride preempts the Japanese player from presuming their English is strong enough to speak freely. This coupled with pride in their own language generally causes them to use Japanese when possible.

    If forced to speak English, a good portion of Japanese students (and adults) can do it. It’s just that they’ll have points when they use Japanese words or lots of “eto” (their equivalent of “umm”). Given that Darvish’s parents are both English speaking, it’s very likely that he’s multi-lingual. I would assume he’s fluent in English, but speaks it with a Japanese accent.

    Comment by Dane — July 19, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

  47. >>That said, the Japanese nationals tend to be VERY good at understanding English.

    no… lol That’s not true.
    We Japanese are not good at understanding and speaking English.
    Because they don’t teach us how to speak,or pronounce English words.
    Some people are good at reading English, but they never speak.
    Yu Darvish says he can understand English but not very fluent in Speaking, but would be fluent when he spend some times in the US.

    Comment by JapaNeeds — February 3, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

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