Darvish to Stay Home

I was originally going to write a counterweight to all the recent media speculation about a Yu Darvish posting, but the point was rendered moot on Tuesday by the man himself. In an announcement on his blog (translated here), Darvish said that he “will be wearing a Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighers uniform” next year. Darvish hasn’t signed a contract for 2011, so the case isn’t totally closed, but his latest comments are consistent with what he’s been saying for years. He has consistently disavowed any interest in playing in MLB, though this season he was less adamant about it, and admitted some contact with agents like Scott Boras and Arn Tellem.

Darvish’s announcement is certainly good news for Nippon Ham. He’s key to their ability to compete, but beyond that, the current economic climate is problematic for Japanese exports to the United States. When Daisuke Matsuzaka was posted in 2006, the exchange rate was about 118 yen per dollar. Over the last week it has been hovering at about 81.4 Yen per dollar. So when Seibu posted Matsuzaka, their $51.1m fee translated to about 6bn Yen. If they had done it today and gotten the same fee from the Red Sox, it would have come out to about 4.18 bn Yen.

Moving back to the baseball field, 2010 saw Darvish post his fourth consecutive sub-2.00 ERA, at 1.78. Darvish’s ERA is FIP-endorsed, as he weighed in at a healthy 1.92 on that scale. In 202 innings pitched, Darvish set career bests with 222 strikeouts and five home runs allowed. His WHIP did inch across the 1.00 line for the first time since 2006 at 1.01, but he still lead his league in the category. Sub-par run support limited his win total to 12, a figure that will hurt his chances of taking a second Sawamura Award, but overall he was again Japan’s most dominant pitcher.

The historical greatness of Darvish’s performance often takes a backseat to the MLB rumors, so it’s worth underscoring here. Darvish is only the third pitcher in NPB’s modern era (since 1950) to post a sub-2.00 ERA in four consecutive seasons. The previous two are NPB Hall of Famers Masaichi Kaneda (1955-58) and Kazuhisa Inao (1956-59), who played their primes in a real pitcher’s era. Darvish is on a trajectory to rival the seven straight NPB batting titles Ichiro won from 1994-2000.

But the other side of the coin is that Darvish doesn’t have a lot left to prove in NPB. I think we will see him in the Majors at some point, but it could be a while. Conventional wisdom would suggest that Nippon Ham could post him the offseason before he’s due for free agency, which would be 2014. But who really knows? At this point, the thing that is looking the most certain is that the rumors will continue.

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Patrick Newman is a veteran enthusiast of Japanese baseball who happens to write about it at npbtracker.com, and on Twitter @npbtracker.

27 Responses to “Darvish to Stay Home”

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  1. Heather says:

    I don’t understand why a player with nothing left to prove who could make more money in the U.S. would stay in Japan, unless he simply didn’t want to move.

    And if that’s true now, wouldn’t it also be true in 2014?

    Am I misunderstanding something?

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    • Ben says:

      Have you always felt the same about your career path and desired location over a four year span for your entire life, much less your 20s? If you have then you’re a rarity.

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      • Hunter says:

        Thanks for the snark. The larger point being, if he doesn’t want to come now, why should we assume he’s going to come at any time in the future?

        In other words, as I tried to state before, am I missing some intricacy of the Japanese posting system that would make this more likely?

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      • “am I missing some intricacy of the Japanese posting system that would make this more likely?”

        Not within the rules of the system itself, but I would put forth the following:

        1. My perception is that Darvish was less adamant this year about not wanting to go to MLB. If my perception is correct, and it continues he could eventually come around.
        2. Nippon Ham will be more willing to post him when he has a year to go before free agency than four years.
        3. He may prefer to move as a free agent, where he has more freedom and negotiating leverage.

        Or he could just not move at all.

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  2. Sal Paradise says:

    Generally speaking, there’s no reason that Nippon Ham couldn’t keep the posting fee as an investment in US dollars. I’d be shocked if Nippon Ham was strapped for yen/cash flow, and/or didn’t have investments in US dollars already.

    My guess is that the Fighters told him that he would not be allowed to post. Regardless of what the exchange rate is for the posting fee, the salary that Darvish would command in the US is undoubtedly higher over the next 4 years than it would be sticking around in Japan until free agency.

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    • On the currency, I haven’t researched this, but yes I’m sure the Nippon Ham corporation has US-based assets and they could account for a posting fee in dollars. But the company’s and the team’s bottom line is in Yen, and it’s a concern. Nintendo posted a loss in Q1, in part due to currency issues.

      I think you’re also right about Nippon Ham not wanting to post him. It is not in their best interests as a business or a competitive baseball team.

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  3. bill says:

    Doesn’t Darvish have some whole thing about him being half-Japanese so he has “something to prove” to the Japanese people(or whatever)?

    Kind of a shame though, Darvish is nasty, I’d love to see him in the majors.

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    • noseeum says:

      He’s half Iranian, if I remember correctly. Took me longer to type this than to google, but hey. :)

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      • My echo and bunnymen says:

        Okinawan and Iranian. I don’t know why it is so, but I hear in my Japanese class that Okinawans are “different”. I get the impression it’s like southerners here. (Me being one that is)

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      • Sal Paradise says:

        Okinawa is more like Hawaii than the South. It’s just a totally different culture/region, and it hasn’t been a part of Japan that long (much like Hawaii). And that matters a lot less than the half-Iranian part.

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      • Miyagi says:

        China here. Japan here. Okinawa here!

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  4. gradygradychase says:

    One of the probable reasons that he is reluctant to come to MLB is, I guess, because he said at some point in the past the take as follows;

    ” I might as well quit baseball as go to Majors and break the mind of Japanese children. ”

    I don’t remember when he said nor know the exact source, but the take above is very common recognition in the heart of Japanese baseball fan.

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    • That quote is from an interview done right around the time of one of Nippon Ham’s Japan Series appearances, which would be either ’06 or ’07. I want to say that quote is from ’06.

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  5. nartin says:

    I think he’s having a lot of endorsements in Japan in addition to his salary since he’s a megastar. Moving over to the MLB would loose all endorsements.

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    • nathan says:

      I’ve heard that too. I don’t know how true it is. Hideki Matsui and Ichiro still have there faces plastered all over the place there.

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      • Ichiro in particular seems more heavily commercialized in Japan now then ever before (I lived in Japan at the tail end of his Orix tenure and visited three weeks ago). If anything, MLB success leads to more endorsement opportunities.

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  6. Mike says:

    During the 2009 World Baseball Classic, it was noted on several occasions that Yu Darvish wanted to stay in Japan to set an example, since all the best players leave for MLB. If he stays, he may encourage others to stay, and the Japanese League would overall be at a higher level of competition. The only reason MLB is the best league in the world is because it draws players from all over the world, whereas NPB is about 90% Japanese. If they can do a better job of holding onto their superstars, they can get a larger share of the world’s greatest. So it all boils down to nationalism really.

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    • nathan says:

      That and he’s a baseball god in Japan. In MLB he probably won’t even be the best pitcher on his team depending on the team. Coming over is rough on players. I think he would walk a ton of batters until he adjusts. Japan has a big strike zone, and he likes the edges of it. And he won’t be playing in that dome of his that’s like the Astrodome with 20 foot high walls. He’s probably just not ready to start over and climb the hill again. I’m disappointed. I wanted to see him try.

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    • Sal Paradise says:

      NPB is 90% Japanese because the rules make it so.

      Each team can have a maximum of 4 foreigners from anywhere, and 1 foreigner from Korea/China/Taiwan on the roster at any given time. (There are some exceptions, like Tuffy Rhodes, who have been here so long they count as a Japanese player for those quotas).

      So most teams have the max on their active roster, and 2-3 foreign players in the minors in the case of an injury. Sometimes people get hauled over mid-season as well, like Hayden Penn.

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  7. Avi says:

    This is why I love Fangraphs. Kudos to Patrick Newman for intelligently guiding us step-by-step through the primary factors in play regarding Yu Darvish’s decision. His choice to remain in Japan is still a surprise to me, however. Despite the exchange rate and endorsement issues, joining the MLB would appear to be more lucrative.

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  8. Resolution says:

    Can Darvish be the PTBNL in our trade of Matt Murton to Japan?

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  9. Nate says:

    Is there anything to back up the new Darvish to MLB in 2012 tweet by David Lennon of Newsday (an interview or statement that has not been translated perhaps?), or it just another bs rumor?


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