Wednesday, October 16, 2013
If Masahiro Tanaka translates like Yu Darvish
I haven’t run a real 2014 projection yet for Masahiro Tanaka because I generally wait until I have a more comprehensive list of players who could be moving over from Japan to MLB, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start playing around with some crude ways to estimate how his performance in Japan would translate to the majors. So for this first quick and dirty iteration, I just took a 3/2/1 weighted average of what Yu Darvish did in his last three seasons in Japan and compared it to his average over his first two MLB seasons, pro-rated to match his MLB innings.
Here are the main things to look at.
These are the ratios of his MLB stats to his Japanese stats over the same number of innings. For example, he allowed home runs at a rate four times greater than he did in Japan. What’s interesting is his strikeout rate went up pretty significantly, but as you’d expect everything else was worse.
So here are four sets of stat lines to peruse.
|Darvish (3/2/1 2011/2010/2009)||200||141||40||35||5||39||225||1.81||1.59||1.87|
|Darvish (avg MLB)||200||151||79||75||20||85||249||3.52||3.34||3.31|
|Tanaka (3/2/1 2013/2012/2011)||174||143||33||28||5||23||163||1.69||1.44||2.07|
|If Tanaka translates like Darvish||174||153||64||59||20||50||181||3.28||3.04||3.45|
As nice as Tanaka’s statistical performance appears to translate, I’d have concerns about a few things. First of all is that I don’t think there’s any question that Darvish has a better fastball than Tanaka. Tanaka supposedly sits in the low 90s and his fastball is straight. He’s been successful thanks to his secondary pitches, primarily his splitter and his slider. If he can’t use his fastball to set those pitches up, then they’re likely to be less effective against the best hitters on the planet. Second of all, most pitchers who’ve come over from Japan have not had the same level of success in making the transition that Darvish has had thus far. It’s also worth noting that Tanaka’s FIP is a bit higher than Darvish’s even though his R/ER translate better.
On the plus side, Tanaka exhibited better control than Darvish.
The last time I ran my translations for a larger population of pitchers, I found that MLB strikeout rate was 0.82 of Japan’s. If we assume that’s a more realistic scenario for Tanaka, then you’re probably looking at 148 strikeouts instead of 181 and a FIP of 3.75.
It’s probably worth noting that both pitchers pitched in Japan’s Pacific League, which does use a designated hitter. So at the very least we don’t have to worry about a hidden advantage in Tanaka’s line. I guess it’s also worth nothing that Darvish’s increase in home run rate is anomalously high relative to other pitchers who’ve crossed over.
The Yankees need to add talent to the organization, and ideally they should do it in a way that doesn’t cost them other avenues of doing so. Winning a posting for Tanaka and signing him would not cost them a draft pick and would have less impact on their payroll for luxury tax purposes. But he also carries the risk of not being worth the total cost he will command. But if he’s a bust, he just costs them money and a few wins.
I was kind of meh on the Yankees trying for Tanaka, but the more I think about the more I think it makes sense. I’ll be interested to see where other projection systems have him and if his CAIRO projection ends up differing significantly from his translated line above.
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