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MLB Arizona Diamondbacks

The Convenient Comparison of Yu Darvish and C.J. Wilson

After the 2011 season, two pitchers signed mutli-year contracts with new baseball teams. One of these pitchers was C.J. Wilson, and the other was Yu Darvish. Wilson left the Texas Rangers to pitch for the Los Angeles Angels, and Darvish later joined the Rangers, filling the hole created by Wilson upon his departure. The timing of all the transactions has seemingly forever trapped the two pitchers in a comparison to one another, as over the next five years it will be determined which team made the better choice of pitcher to employ.

Darvish is 25 years old. Wilson is 31 years old. Darvish signed a six-year, $60 million contract (plus the cost of a $51.7 million posting fee), while Wilson signed a five-year, $77.5 million contract. Texas obviously felt that Darvish was worth the additional $35 million, and seemingly with good reason based on his age and talent level. So far, in 2012, how does the comparison of these two pitchers look?

Both players started out strong. In April, Darvish posted a 2.18 ERA, and Wilson posted a 2.70 ERA. Since then, the road has gotten tougher. Since July 1, Darvish has a 7.04 ERA, and Wilson has a 5.36 ERA.

Darvish has struck out more batters at a 10.3 K/9 rate compared to Wilson’s 7.7 K/9 rate. Yet, Darvish has also walked more batters to the tune of 5.0 BB/9 versus Wilson’s 4.1 BB/9. Neither has been a sparkling image of command, and have similar K/BB rates at 2.1 for Darvish and 1.9 for Wilson.

The recent struggles from the two pitchers have brought both of them special attention from their managers. Wilson was pulled into a sit-down with Mike Scioscia and Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher last Friday. The theme of the meeting was to encourage Wilson to not over-think his approach on the mound and try to work more efficiently. Ron Washington met with Darvish on Wednesday to make sure he was in a good state mentally and affirm his belief in the Japanese starter. Wilson responded to his meeting by giving up six runs in five innings on nine hits and five walks; one of his worst starts of the year. The Rangers will find out how Darvish responds when he faces Detroit on Sunday.

Both pitchers have stayed healthy all year, induced an above average amount of ground balls, and done a good job of keeping the ball in the park. Both pitchers have been less effective at minimizing free passes in 2012 than they have in their careers. Using xFIP (a measure of a pitcher’s expected future performance), the two should continue to pitch similarly the rest of the season (Darvish has a 3.90 xFIP, and Wilson has a 4.10). In terms of value, Darvish has been worth 2.7 fWAR and Wilson 2.4 fWAR.

Neither Texas nor Los Angeles can say they have been satisfied with the performance of Darvish or Wilson. Both teams certainly expected better production when they signed the dotted line on those contracts. However, Darvish and Wilson have performed too similarly to be able to declare one signing superior to another at this point. It may not even make complete sense to do so, but the two will continue to be measured, analyzed, and compared to one another until a final determination can be made.

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