How Will Yu Darvish Fare in the MLB?
Hailed as the premier pitching force in the Nippon Professional Baseball League, Darvish spent seven years throwing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, posting an absurd stat line consisting of a 1.99 ERA, 1,259 strikeouts, and 93-38 win-loss record. Off the field, Darvish has lived the lifestyle typically associated with that of a rock star, dating adult film stars and engaging in erratic and somewhat childish behavior on a regular basis.
Standing at an imposing 6’5, Darvish is a righty who wields a versatile arsenal of pitches that include a sizzling 4-seam fastball, vicious slurve, cutter, splitter, curveball, and 2-seam fastball. Course, his total number of pitches will be diluted down in Spring Training,
As evidenced by his stellar career pitching stats, Darvish dominated his Japanese hitting opposition, winning the Pacific League’s MVP Award in 2007 and 2009.
So how will this Japanese pitching sensation’s game translate over to the MLB? Japanese baseball seasons are shorter, and the hitters are not as strong or skilled. Will Darvish be the second coming of Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose once bright-career has been sullied by lackluster performances and injuries? Or will he be the first to prove that a Japanese pitcher can successfully become an ace in America?
Personally, I want to see Darvish succeed. I also think that when it comes to pure talent, he is better than Matsuzaka ever was. Yet I feel Darvish’s first season will be a rocky one that will reflect the vast talent upgrade of the hitters he’ll be pitching to. I do believe there will be some games where Darvish will perform up to his lofty expectations: throwing strikes left and right, controlling the tempo, and walking away with the impressive win. Despite occasional success, Darvish will inevitably get struck back down to Earth. I predict he will experience many an early exit after getting rocked by opposing lineups. Pitching in the MLB is a whole new, scary monster full of tremendous power bats, hawk-eyed contact hitters, and unshakable plate discipline. Darvish will find all this out the hard way.
Due to that one extra batter, pitching in the AL is considered harder than in the NL. I expect Darvish to emerge from the 2012 season with an ERA between 3.7-3.9. Course, who knows what’ll happen in reality. Darvish will benefit from having one of the most lethal hitting lineups in baseball backing him up, which will definitely help pull him out of some tight situations every now and then.
Regardless of his performance, Yu Darvish will continue to be one of the most intriguing stories in baseball this season. He holds the weight of an entire nation on his shoulders as he strives to prove he can play with the big boys.
Let’s see if he’s up to the challenge.