Jason Coskrey is a sports writer for the Japan Times. His primary focus is Japanese baseball but he also has experience covering soccer, American football, boxing and basketball. He previously worked for the Marietta Daily Journal in Marietta. Ga. A native of Detroit, he is a graduate of the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He was interviewed by BaseballAnalytic's Bill Chuck.
1. Jason, briefly what do you see as the biggest difference between Pro Yakyu (professional baseball) in Japan and American yakyu (baseball)?
Wow, there so many little things that combine to make the game a bit different. But I guess the most glaring one may be pitch counts. I've noticed MLB teams keep their guys on a tight leash in regards to pitch counts. Here, for the top-level guys, not so much.
For instance Yu Darvish just threw 131 pitches in eight innings last night (6/30) and 131 the start before that. He's usually between 100-110 every time out. That's probably in the range for most of the top pitchers.
For the aces, it's still a point of pride to go deep no matter how many pitches it takes. I guess that holds true for the Roy Halladays of the world too, but NPB managers will leave their guys on the mound in many cases.
Though starters here usually pitch once a week, so the workloads are slightly different, although Japanese pitchers practice more on off days.
2. Beyond the Triple Crown categories, are stats followed in Japan the way they are increasingly followed in the States?
Not quite. Most of the mainstream focuses on the Triple Crown categories historical stuff, sometimes really minute historical facts, and tendencies depending on situation and that type of thing.
It is changing though. Advanced metrics are creeping in slowly, but outside of the actual teams, they are not as mainstream as in the U.S. right now.
The website SMR-Baseball Lab (http://www.baseball-lab.jp/) does great work though and is sort of a Fangraphs for Japanese baseball.
Based on the way front offices are structured here (outside of Softbank now and Chiba Lotte when Bobby Valentine and his staff were here) I don't think the nontraditional stats will ever reach the level they've reached in the states among fans.
Even in the U.S., despite the excellent work of Bill James and others, "Moneyball" really helped get the ball rolling toward the mainstream consciousness faster than it may have otherwise. Hard to see where that jolt comes from on this side the way things are now.
3. I only have three questions and while I want to know more about Yu Darvish, I’m really curious as to how Daisuke Matsuzaka is regarded today in Japan. In Boston the debate is whether he is a gigantic failure or a huge failure.
I'm not sure anyone here really knows what to think about Dice-K. He's kind of faded away, sort of out of sight, out of mind. Not really talked about much anymore. He's definitely gone down a notch or two though.
I think most sided with him initially in terms of the way he wanted to work out and rehab vs. what the team wanted him to do. Was the Japanese way after all. Now maybe more people are wondering what's going on with his uneven performances etc.
Since your really curious, Darvish is having an amazing start to the season (current Japanese Baseball stats can be found here). A few scouts have nitpicked his slider a bit, but he's controlling his pitches and hitting his spots. He seems to have gotten a bit stronger as well.
Like some of the other guys, he's benefitted from a new ball introduced this year that has certainly helped pitchers more than batters.
As of June 30, he's made 12 starts and is 10-2 with a 1.44 ERA, 116 strikeouts, 5 complete games and 4 shutouts (he made it through two of his shutouts without walking a batter). So, yeah, he's good.
Jason can be found on Twitter @JCoskrey.