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The 2008 Sawamura Award

by Patrick Newman (Oct 4, 2008)

Work and my upcoming home move have settled down a little bit, so it's time to catch up on a little NPB bloggin'. There's no immediate end in sight to my hectic schedule, but I'm hoping to be able to get back to posting 2-3 times a week. 

Let's start the comeback with a look a this year's race for the Sawamura Award. With apologies to Satoshi Komatsu and Colby Lewis, two pitchers have clearly separated themselves from the pack: Nippon Ham's Yu Darvish and Rakuten's Hisashi Iwakuma. Darvish's regular season is over, while Iwakuma still has another start left, but we have enough numbers to compare. Here's my fairly simplistic look at them head-to-head.

Selected Rate Stats

NameERAWHIPK/9IPHR/9IPK/BB
Yu Darvish1.880.909.350.494.73
Hisashi Iwakuma1.930.997.150.144.43

Darvish has an edge here, but it's minimal. Both pitchers have sub-2.00 ERAs, sub-1.00 WHIPs, and 4 K/BB ratios. Darvish has struck more guys out, but Iwakuma has better controlled the home run ball. Both guys have been outstanding by these metrics.

Selected Accumulated Stats

GamesStartsCGShutoutsNo-walk CGWinsLosesWin %IP
Yu Darvish252410221640.800200.2
Hisashi Iwakuma27275232040.833195.2

Iwakuma has a big edge here in hitting the 20 win mark, becoming the first NPB 20-game winner since Kazumi Saito and Kei Igawa both did it in 2003. This is a particularly phenomenal achievement for a guy pitching for a last place team.

Darvish has been a workhorse, throwing 200 innings in just 24 starts. It should be noted, however,  that he threw two meaningless innings in Nippon Ham's 17-0 drubbing of Rakuten in the Fighters' last regular season game to reach 200.

Hits AllowedHR AllowedKBBRunsEarned Runs
Yu Darvish13611208444442
Hisashi Iwakuma1583155354842

The WHIP numbers shown above give an indication of how unhittable these guys have been this year, and these totals underscore that further. Despite Iwakuma's remarkable HR allowed total, overall Darvish has been even less hittable.

The Sawamura Award

The recipient of the Sawamura Award is decided by a panel of great NPB pitchers, who in part base their decision on the following criteria (courtesy of Wikipedia):

  • Games started: 25
  • Wins: 15
  • Complete games: 10
  • W/L Percentage: .600
  • Innings Pitched: 200
  • ERA: 2.50
  • Strikeouts: 150

With the exception of Iwakuma's CG total (5), both pitchers meet all the criteria, or come so close that it doesn't matter. So it'll come down to what the selection committee values more highly: Iwakuma's win total for his also-ran team, or Darvish's general unhittable-ness.

Personally, my head says it's Darvish but my gut says it's Iwakuma. This would be an easier choice if the Fighters had scored a few more runs behind Darvish early in the season, but they didn't. Iwakuma was consistent throughout the whole year and helped give Rakuten's fans their first year of competitive baseball to cheer for. In the end, I think I'd go for Iwakuma.


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