Talking Yu Darvish With Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker

We got in touch with Patrick Newman, founder, writer, and editor of NPB Tracker and asked him some questions about 24 year old Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Patrick has been a fan of Japanese baseball since Sports Channel aired the 1994 Japan Series while the Major Leaguers were on strike. He then lived in Japan between 2000-2003, and has been following NPB very closely ever since.  Content from NPB Tracker has been featured or referenced in numerous media outlets, including ESPN, SNY.tv, the Boston Score, the Boston Herald, AOL Fanhouse, NESN, MASN,  Baseball Prospectus; online editions the Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, and the  Examiner. So when we had some questions about the intriguing talents of Darvish, we knew exactly where to go. We highly recommend checking his work out and hope you enjoy his chat with Metszilla.com:

MetsZilla-

What would have to happen for Darvish to come over this season? How much do you think he will demand in salary/year?

Patrick Newman-

Yu Darvish begins his pitch
Image via Wikipedia

My guess is that either he’d have to really push for it or his team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, would have to believe these rumors are becoming a distraction. He still has three years left before hitting free agency, and he’s the best pitcher in the league.  Posting him would make little sense for Nippon Ham.

MetsZilla-

What percentage would you give of this actually coming to fruition?

Patrick Newman-

I wasn’t going to bite on this, but then I noticed that I said 1% earlier on NPB Tracker. So I’ll stick with that.

MetsZilla-

Can you compare the hype surrounding Darvish to that of any recent player to join the MLB or, because of his age and popularity is there simply no comparison?

Patrick Newman-

The velocity of the rumors exceeds what we saw with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who would be the most obvious comparison.

MetsZilla-

In terms of his development, who among MLB rookies might you liken him to?

Patrick Newman-

The short answer is that I don’t see an obvious comparable among this year’s rookies.  The ones you’re going to want to hear about are Strasburg and Chapman.  Darvish doesn’t have the raw velocity of either of those guys, but he’s shown he can hit 95-96 on the gun.  He also features a more diverse repertoire than either Strasburg or Chapman, and he has more experience competing at a high level as well.

MetsZilla-

Should he come over, we have heard reports that teams such as the Mets and Rangers have scouted him.  Any guesses as to his potential landing spot or is it just too early to tell?

Patrick Newman-

Too early.  We don’t know when/if he’ll make the jump, and whether it would be via posting or free agency.  If he eventually gets posted it’s anyone’s guess, although the situation would favor the big-budget teams.

MetsZilla-

Do you know of any other Japanese players that are looking to make the jump into the MLB this off-season?

Patrick Newman-

I’ve listed a few HERE: http://www.npbtracker.com/2011-free-agents-etc/. I will continue to update this page as we make progress into the offseason.

MetsZilla-

What does his ‘stuff’ consist of? and how would you rate his pitches?

Patrick Newman-

This year, Darvish has mostly featured his fastball, two seamer/shuuto, two sliders, cutter, changeup, and curve (you can get a sense here for his repertoire)

I think his best pitches are his fastball and his harder slider.  When he’s on he’s capable of throwing all his pitches for strikes, and with Darvish I think it’s as much about mixing in a number of quality pitches and changing speeds as it is about having a specific out pitch.
MetsZilla-
Do you see him as a top of the rotation guy? and how long do you believe it would be until he makes an impact for whichever team lands him?

Patrick Newman-

He has the potential to be. The answer to both of your questions is the same — it depends on how long he’ll take to adjust to pitching in a five-man rotation, a different style of baseball, more travel, a different diet, and other cultural differences. We’ve seen a number of Japanese starting pitchers come over and have some initial success, and then hit a bit of a wall, so that’s something else to watch out for. But the talent is there.

Thanks again to Patrick for his contribution and be sure to follow him on twitter to keep up with all the Japanese Baseball action. Darvish will officially be a free agent in 3 years so it will be interesting to see if his current team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, will post him for bid at the end of this season and which teams come knocking if they do.

However, there are no indications that the Mets will be looking to add to their pay roll this off-season , so I find it very hard to believe -if Darvish is posted- that NY will be willing to spend upwards of a $50-70 million bid for the Japanese starter.

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