by John Dewan

According to his agent, Don Nomura, Yu Darvish was posted yesterday (Thursday, December 8) for a move to MLB from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the top Japanese professional baseball league.  This is a process whereby major-league teams bid in a silent auction for the exclusive rights to negotiate with Darvish.  The auction is four days long.

Darvish is the latest superstar Japanese player to make the move across the Pacific, and MLB teams have been waiting for him to become available ever since he recorded the final out of the 2009 World Baseball Classic to clinch Japan’s second WBC title.  And now that the big names like Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson are off the board, Darvish becomes one of the best remaining free-agent starting pitchers available.

Each year in The Bill James Handbook we include the career stats of players that are most likely to leave the Japanese leagues to come over and play in the United States.  This year, Darvish is obviously the most high-profile such player.

Here are Darvish’s career numbers from Japan, playing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Season

Age

Wins

Losses

ERA

IP

SO

2005

18

5

5

3.53

94.1

52

2006

19

12

5

2.89

149.2

115

2007

20

15

5

1.82

207.2

210

2008

21

16

4

1.88

200.2

208

2009

22

15

5

1.73

182.0

167

2010

23

12

8

1.78

202.0

222

2011

24

18

6

1.44

232.0

276

Career

-

93

38

1.99

1268.1

1250

If you are curious how that compares to the last highly-touted young pitcher that helped Japan win a World Baseball Classic title (MVP of the 2006 tournament) before deciding to join MLB the following year, here are Daisuke Matsuzaka’s career numbers playing for the Seibu Lions.

Season

Age

Wins

Losses

ERA

IP

SO

1999

18

16

5

2.60

180.0

151

2000

19

14

7

3.97

167.2

144

2001

20

15

15

3.60

240.1

214

2002

21

6

2

3.68

73.1

78

2003

22

16

7

2.83

194.0

215

2004

23

10

6

2.90

146.0

127

2005

24

14

13

2.30

215.0

226

2006

25

17

5

2.13

186.1

200

Career

-

108

60

2.95

1402.2

1355

It will be interesting to see what kind of posting fee and contract Darvish gets.  Dice-K pitched a bit more at a young age, but Darvish has been more consistently dominant than Dice-K was.  Darvish has had an ERA under 2.00 for five years running, and threw more than 200 innings in four of those five years.  Will that lead to a similar $100 million outlay, like Dice-K got ($51 million posting fee plus $52 million 6-year contract), or will teams spend more cautiously after seeing the up-and-down performance of Dice-K since he entered MLB?

You can find more statistics on Japanese players that are likely to sign MLB contracts this year in The Bill James Handbook 2012.

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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