With newly acquired Japanese left-handed pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada likely being penciled into the Orioles' rotation for next year, it might not hurt to take a guess as to how he might do. Comparing NPB stats to Major League ones is tricky, but luckily Brian Cartwright (who does the Oliver projections) has looked into the issue:
"I started with a list of 33 Japanese pitchers who have come to MLB from 1995-2011. I’ll show their last 3 years in Japan, their projection, and their first 3 years in MLB... Last week I coded an adjustment for the new standardized ball in NPB in 2011... For a FIP estimate of a pitcher coming from NPB to MLB, increase HRs by 68%, increase BB by 11.6%, decrease SO by 9.6%."
So here are Wada's stats for the last three years:
The "FIP" uses the standard major league FIP formula, not adjusted year-to-year.
Adjusting for the new NPB ball in 2011 using Cartwright's Yu Darvish changes:
So it looks like much of the 2011 "improvement" was a mirage due to the new ball, though he did walk (and K) fewer batters.
Adjusting using the NPB to MLB conversion:
Those home runs in 2009... yikes. For '10-'11 these numbers would compare not too unfavorably to John Danks, Matt Garza, and Jonathon Niese (all have a K/9 within 0.5 points, BB/9 within 0.25 points, and HR/9 within 0.1 point of Wada's 7.4-2.8-0.9 for the two years). I'd wager that all three of those guys have better stuff than Wada does though.
A 3-2-1 weighting of more recent seasons would give Wada the following 2012 line:
This needs to be regressed, but I'm not sure what* to regress it to... lefties with fastballs under 90 mph perhaps (for '10-'11, those with at least 200 IP total had an overall K/9 of 6.3, BB/9 of 2.8, and HR/9 of 0.9)?
* Normally it's league average, I think, but looking at a specific player I can throw some "scouting" in there maybe.
Doing so at 50% gives:
Mostly it just decreased the K's a bit, but also the home runs a touch which kept the FIP about the same. Not regressing the HR would put the FIP at 4.14.
Lastly, there's some aging involved. A 5% decline in each category would leave:
Which makes Wada pretty much Ervin Santana circa 2010 (pro-rated to 155 IP; 19 homers, 51 walks, 118 K's, 4.24 FIP). I'd be wary about such an optimistic projection (but it could happen!) - a 10% decline would instead give:Year IP HR BB K "FIP" 2012 147 20 55 111 4.5
That I'm a little more comfortable with; 6.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9. If he can pitch almost 150 innings at that level, that's still a good win and a half - enough to make his contract a small bargain (even taking into account further decline in 2013). If he manages to pitch to the penultimate line, it's more like 2 wins, and Wada will earn his salary twice over.
It'll be interesting to see how well Wada transitions to the big leagues, but it looks like Dan Duquette might have made a nice little move here.
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