Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pros & Cons: C.J. Wilson v. Yu Darvish

C.J. Wilson
  • Left-handed
  • Strong performance in AL, in a hitter's park
  • Limited wear and tear (less than 1300 IP in professional career)
  • Above-average groundball and strikeout rates
  • Improved across the board in second full season as a starter
  • Above-average ERA, FIP, and xFIP in 2010 and 2011
  • Top-10 in AL in fWAR, bWAR, ERA, FIP, and xFIP in 2011
  • Will be 31 in November
  • Only two full seasons as a starter limits the usefulness and overall reliability of the data
  • Would cost a first-round draft pick to sign
Yu Darvish
  • Far better NPB resume than previous imports, including Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kei Igawa, Hideki Irabu, Hideo Nomo, and Hiroki Kuroda (the most successful Japanese pitcher in MLB)
  • Possibly the best pitcher in NPB history - career 1.99 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 3.75 K/BB
  • International scouts grade his fastball and slider as plus pitches
  • Only 25-years-old
  • Very successful in World Baseball Classic
  • Durable, with 200+ IP in four of last five years
  • Simple, repeatable delivery
  • Will not cost a draft pick; posting fee does not count against luxury tax
  • Has logged nearly 1300 IP at age-25
  • Potential transitioning issues - heavier ball with higher seams, pitching every fifth day instead of once a week, and higher level of competition (most compare NPB to AAA) in MLB
  • General lack of success of Japanese players in MLB
In my mind, neither Wilson nor Darvish is a sure thing.

Though Wilson has been incredibly successful over these past two seasons, his resume is lacking otherwise (and his relief career was plagued by inconsistency). Hindsight bias aside, I do think he's a safer bet than A.J. Burnett ... but to what degree I am not quite sure.

Darvish's success in the NPB is simply jaw-dropping, on an entirely different level than any other pitcher we've ever seen. Unlike Matsuzaka and Igawa, it does seem like the only issue with Darvish's transition is the general malaise of prior imports, as opposed to questions regarding his stuff. That being said, the transition is far from simple and the degree to which others have failed is sometimes staggering.

In the end, I would prefer Yu Darvish by the slimmest of margins. I view him as a top-notch prospect with a bevy of experience, and the lesser hit to the luxury tax and ability to retain the first-round pick is quite important. Wilson's floor is higher than Darvish's, but his ceiling is equally lower - and he's not quite safe enough for me to not roll the dice.

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