The Texas Rangers made a splash this season, acquiring the rights of Yu Darvish from Japan. So many people declared that Darvish was the “real deal” coming into the season, stating he is different than all the Japanese predecessors before him. After all, he had five plus-plus pitches, he was younger than most, and dominated some of Major League Baseball’s best in the World Baseball Classic. However, YuMania has hit a bit of a roadblock.
After getting drilled by the Boston Red Sox on Monday, Darvish now has a 4.57 ERA and a 3.80 FIP. Those numbers aren’t the worst in baseball, but compared to how much he is getting paid, it’s safe to say he has been a disappointment. The reason for Darvish’s struggles – like most Japanese pitchers – is his control. Yu Darvish has a BB/9 of nearly five at 4.97. His 10.34 K/9 is fantastic for a starting pitcher, but when you walk nearly five guys per nine innings, that K/9 is neutralized.
It’s probably too early to judge Yu Darvish just from this year. But it appears Darvish is heading down the one way road of Japanese pitching failures. Do you want to know how bad Japanese pitching imports have been in Major League Baseball? Hideo Nomo is clearly the best Japanese starting pitcher of all-time. After Nomo, it has to be Hiroki Kuroda, a pitcher who came to the US with little to no fanfare. After those two guys, we have a long list of colossal failures such as: Hideki Irabu, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kei Igawa, Junichi Tazawa, and Kazuhisa Ishii.
There have been a handful of relievers who have had solid careers such as: Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Takashi Saito, and Kaz Sasaki. But the overall majority of imports have failed, especially the ones earning a bulk of the buck.
Needless to say, Yu Darvish’s bad season has to make general managers think a little harder before acquiring a high-priced Japanese pitcher. With Igawa, Dice-K, Tazawa, and now Darvish, Japan isn’t really on a good streak sending pitchers over.
Yu Darvish was supposed to eliminate the doubt that Japanese pitchers can succeed in this league. Instead, the cloud of doubt looms larger with each and every run Yu Darvish allows.