Key Stats: Yu Darvish’s 1.44 ERA last season was almost a full run lower than that of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s in his age 24 season as Charlie pointed out last week. More on Dice-K in the Peer Comparison, but that’s a very low ERA. Zips believes he will strikeout 169 and have a 3.62 ERA while Oliver has him perhaps contending for the Cy Young with a 2.40 ERA and 223 strikeouts.
Skeptics Say: Hey come to Arlington! Wouldn’t you like to have the great Nolan Ryan as your boss? With him in town this place is where all the pitchers want to come. Ok it’s not like the Rangers had to sell him on this since he was sold to the Rangers, but the ballpark is less than ideal. It’s also not an entirely ideal situation in terms of what’s expected of him. The Rangers have been knocking on the doorstep of a championship the last couple of seasons, and obviously now fans will expect that he is going to be the guy that puts them over the top.
Peer Comparison: The numbers favor Darvish over Dice-K before they set foot in America, but interestingly they both had great walk rates. Matsuzaka’s was actually slightly better. What has happened to Dice-K since has been mostly bad news, but initially that wasn’t the case.
In his first two years in America, Dice-K won 33 games, a World Series, and had an ERA under 3.00 one season. Today most Red Sox fans would say he’s the worst investment since Julio Lugo (if not for John Lackey and Carl Crawford). That’s because the Red Sox did not do a good enough job communicating with their investment and bridging the adjustments that were necessary to pitching and simply living in America.
The advantage for the Rangers is of course looking at this as a case study. Of course Darvish is not 100% Japanese anyway, so culturally he’ll be unique in that regard, but he’s also not going to what would be considered a major baseball market. Darvish will be a big deal in the same way that Ichiro has been a big deal, but in the same town as the Longhorns, Cowboys, and Dirk he can manage to keep a lower profile among the people of Dallas.
He has the better numbers and a better psychological advantage than Dice-K and Dice-K wasn’t even that bad in the early years. Darvish could thrive – especially early.
Team Outlook: Don’t underrate what the Rangers have done in transfering Colby Lewis from a dominant stint in Japan to an effective stint with the Rangers the past couple of seasons. The game is different in Japan, but whatever adjustments the Rangers needed to make to get Lewis to sustain his success, they certainly made. It’s also nice to have Lewis on the staff for Darvish to have someone to connect to culturally. Although Lewis isn’t from Japan, he can at least relate to what Darvish could be going through having been on the other end of the cultural transformation.
Projection: All I can do is go off of what others are saying since I’ve never seen the guy pitch, never watched the players he competes against, and have no clue how Major Leaguers will adjust to him. My projection is about as valuable as your grandmother’s. Why rank him this high? Well because Victor Martinez got hurt and someone needed to fill his spot in the countdown. Who better than the guy that is clearly a top 120 player that got left off the countdown entirely.
15 wins 3.37 ERA 1.21 WHIP 173 K in 198 innings