I had prepared to write about how pitchers from Japan have a small margin for error and terrible history, especially when the hype-machine is so stifling that no one could possibly succeed. That history with the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Irabu should make clubs reticent about the astronomical posting bids for the right to even negotiate with them. In addition to that, the number of pitchers who arrived without the media exposure and did well—Hideo Nomo, Hideki Okajima—should give greater pause before going all in with cash and expectations.
Part of my argument was intended to be centered around the same teams that passed on Aroldis Chapman being after the latest hot commodity, Yu Darvish.
I still don’t know how Chapman wound up with the Reds and not the Yankees or Red Sox—he was the real deal before he signed and is the real deal now.
But after looking at video clips of Darvish, he’s going to be a dominating pitcher in the big leagues.
His motion combines the height and ball-hooking quirkiness of Rick Sutcliffe; the deception and charisma of Tim Lincecum; and the leg drive and finish of David Cone.
Watching Darvish in the video below, you see the similarities to Sutcliffe.
Sutcliffe was 6’7″, had a set of mechanics that no pitching coach in his right mind would teach, but were actually technically perfect in terms of balance and usage of both arms and intimidating size. The hooking of the wrist toward the forearm is said to be bad for the elbow, but that’s the way he threw; sometimes it does more damage to alter a natural motion that it would be to try and fix it; in some cases, it’s the oddity that makes them effective.
Darvish turns his back to the hitter similarly to Lincecum, he collapses he back leg to load up for the drive to the plate, and uses a leverage-based torque to generate power. The difference being he’s doing it at 6’5″ while Lincecum is (supposedly) 5’11”.
Cone was listed at 6’1″; was actually around 5’11” and threw everything at the hitter from a variety of arm angles; Darvish is said to throw a wide array of pitches including the conventional 4-seam and 2-seam fastballs; a wicked off-speed curve; a forkball; and a slider.
Here’s Cone as he’s just about to release:
And here’s Darvish:
I would totally ignore the results against against Japanese hitters—that’s a mistake that’s repeatedly made in trying to translate the success from Japan to North America. It’s happened not only with the above-mentioned pitchers who didn’t work out as hoped, but with hitters like Tsuyoshi Nishioka who was played up as a batting champion when he signed with the Twins and was a disaster.
With his unique heritage of an Iranian father and Japanese mother; a clear love of the spotlight; and the goods to back it up, Darvish is going to come to the big leagues and be a sensation.
The teams that miss out on him due to being gun-shy after prior errors are going to regret it. He’ll be a devastating force as a big league pitcher.
6 thoughts on “Get Yu Darvish”
I would typically say that Japanese pitchers have a star half life of 45 minutes, but Kaz Sasaki was a great closer for the Mariners for a few years. So maybe Darvish is nor Kaz and less Kei.
I get the idea that the Yankees didn’t even look at Kei Igawa before signing him.
Its almost impossible to see anyway that they could have. My best fastball never broke 85, but I think I can still hit 75 on the radar gun, which is about what Igawa might be hitting too.
You don’t even have to be much of a scout to see no fastball, lame breaking balls, and no mental toughness. In Yankee land that equals huge contract.
The Yankees did a disservice to Igawa when the Padres claimed him on waivers and the Yankees pulled him back; he probably wouldn’t have done much better in the NL than he did with the Yankees, but he couldn’t have done worse; it was done because they didn’t want to be perceived as having tossed the posting money away—which they did anyway. They could’ve done him and themselves a favor and they didn’t because of perceptive concerns.