As you probably already know by now, bidding on Yu Darvish ended just recently after the star right-hander was posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters a few days ago. I mention this because earlier today on Twitter I made a few statements about Yu Darvish and Asian players that generated some interesting discussion and I wanted to clarify my point.
All this started after reading article after article that lazily compared Yu Darvish with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa. I simply questioned whether any other player was subject to these generalizations based on his nationality, ethnicity, and race or whether any other players are lumped in with other busts and generalized to say that they all possess similar qualities because of their personal backgrounds.
Through the course of the discussion, certain people managed to transform my desire to not lazily lump all Asian players into the same pool as being equal to saying that people should not criticize Asian players, which simply isn’t the case.
It’s the way people are criticizing Asian players that has me cringing.
I recognize that there are a ton of question marks that go into signing players from the region, question marks that simply don’t apply to American players. However, there are question marks for just about every other player on the market as well, it’s just that those players are analyzed as individuals and by their potential value, whereas it seems to be almost a requirement to compare prospective Asian players with current or past Asian players as if they are all the same.
It’s probably nothing to other people, but it’s honestly just awkward for me to read.
Robert Whiting, an author and expert on Japanese baseball, said he believes the Rangers and Yankees will submit posting bids on Darvish. But Whiting added: “If he signs with Texas, playing in that small park will not help him … I am afraid if Darvish goes to a hitter’s park, his game may suffer. Chan Ho Park was an ace at Dodger Stadium, not so good in Texas.”
I respect Robert Whiting for the work he has done on Japanese baseball, and I have enjoyed the books he has written, but this is just absurd.
What does Chan Ho Park having success with the Dodgers but not the Rangers have anything to do with Darvish? They are completely different and unrelated circumstances. The only thing relating them at all is the fact that they are both Asian, which is the only reason Park is even mentioned.
The park effects factor will have an affect how Darvish performs, but it will do so like it would for any other pitcher. That’s why we have statistics that normalize for things like league, park, and competition.
Relevant analysis would revolve around how Darvish’s stuff fits in different parks. What is his fly ball percentage? How many bats does he miss? Will the switch lead to a change in distribution? Which parks do those skills fit in?
But no, none of that is addressed in any article on Darvish that I see in the mainstream media, it’s all simply glossed over in favor of lazily throwing together anecdotal connection after anecdotal connection between pitchers who both happen to be Asian.
How is this acceptable? Ugh.
Said Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, “The anecdotal assessment suggests starting pitchers have a two-year window of success followed by a rapid decline, followed thereafter by disappearance. Even a lot of the relievers have had success quickly, reaching a hot peak followed by a rapid decline.”
Says it all.
When the Yankees signed Kei Igawa after the 2006 season, for instance, they relied on very few first-hand evaluations. Now the Yankees invest more time and resources in making sure they get multiple looks at NPB players.
Exactly. The Yankees didn’t do their due diligence on Igawa because they made a reactionary bid in response to losing out on Matsuzaka and since Darvish is Asian like they are, that’s Darvish’s fault.
After the uneven results of Matsuzaka, Igawa and others, the bidding for Darvish is expected to be more restrained, perhaps $30 million to $50 million, and recently some people in baseball have projected that figure below $30 million.
Yes, we get it.
Oh, and there’s the whole matter of pitching, the one question that will take years to answer. While the sample size remains tiny, the Japanese ace in the major leagues has had a short window of success. Hideo Nomo: two years. Matsuzaka: two years. Perhaps Hiroki Kuroda is breaking that trend, what with four consecutive solid seasons, but the skepticism remains.
See: Verducci, Tom
“You have some great examples of players who came here and starred,” said Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, “and some who came here and were average at best and some who were below average. Like it is with any prospect, it’s always something you have to look at on a case-by-case basis. One thing we do know is that the grind of our schedule is different, therefore there are different dynamics for a position player and for a pitcher.”
“Looking at players on a case-by-case basis and treating each Asian player that comes over as an individual? No, no, no, that just won’t do. It doesn’t fit my narrative.”
You know your argument is completely fucked when Ned Colletti is the voice of reason, right?
Perhaps the saddest part is that the sample above is just taken from the top results on Google and what I found on MLB Trade Rumors. Basically, stuff like this is in almost every article about Darvish, so it wasn’t hard to find these examples at all.
So what’s the point?
The point is that there should absolutely be questions asked about Yu Darvish, but those questions should be asked about Yu Darvish the pitcher, not about Yu Darvish the Japanese pitcher or Yu Darvish the Asian pitcher, and certainly not about how Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa relate to him.
Intellectually lazy leaps in logic always bother me, but I felt the need to point this out because it seems nobody ever has a problem when people do it in regards to Asian players (like this). Let’s be honest, similar comparisons would never be made so overtly and so shamelessly if we were talking about Black or Latino players because people would lose their jobs over it.
Originally, I was planning on writing an article about how Japanese players who come over through the posting system are generally overvalued because it’s akin to getting a prospect except they aren’t team controlled. Of course, the difference between my planned analysis and what is currently happening on the journalism landscape is that I would have actually done my homework and looked at each case as individual results instead of lumping them all into one category and making wide ranging generalizations.
By far the most common comparison is between Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka, which is appropriate for the point I’m trying to make because even a cursory comparison of the two would reveal totally different pitchers, personalities, and backgrounds.
Ample reason to see them and analyze them as individuals.
But hey, why do research when you can just be lazy, right?