Kenta Maeda, Yu Darvish vying to be the 1st Japanese Cy Young winner

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 29: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates during game one of the Wild Card Series. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 29: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates during game one of the Wild Card Series. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Yu Darvish of the Chicago Cubs and Kenta Maeda of the Minnesota Twins are representing Japan proudly. Both are attempting to make history.

The AL and NL Cy Young Award finalists were announced yesterday and Japanese-born Yu Darvish of the Cubs and Kenta Maeda of the Twins were among the three finalists from each league. Darvish of the Cubs is competing against Trevor Bauer and Jacob deGrom while Maeda of the Twins is up against Shane Bieber and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

There have been many great Japanese pitchers who made their way to the MLB, but none of them have won a Cy Young Award. Now in 2020, Japan is represented in both the AL and NL. Maeda and Darvish have a shot to be the first Japanese MLB player to win a Cy Young Award.

Several Japanese pitchers have come close to becoming the first Japanese player to add a Cy Young trophy to their shelves. Darvish finished second in Cy Young voting in 2013. Hideo Nomo, who opened the door for many Japanese players, finished fourth in voting 1996 following his Rookie of the Year honors.

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Daisuke Matsuzaka who signed a big deal with the Red Sox finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2007. Takashi Saito, an outstanding reliever while playing in the big leagues finished eighth in his 2006 rookie season. Hisashi Iwakuma, former Mariners starting pitcher finished third in voting in 2013. In the same season as Iwakuma, Koji Uehara who was a crucial part of the Boston Red Sox’s playoff success finished seventh in voting.

It has not become a secret that Japanese pitchers have found success in the MLB and more players are making the switch to the MLB. Masahiro Tanaka recently became a free agent and will be a wanted starting pitcher in the offseason. Shohei Ohtani could be a future Cy Young competitor if he can get healthy.

There are even reports that another Japanese star pitcher could be making his way to the United States. Tomoyuki Sugano is likely to be posted by the Yomiuri Giants.

Kudos to Ryu of the Blue Jays for also putting himself in the mix for the Cy Young Award, proudly representing South Korea. You do not get to see three Asian MLB players vying for a major award like the Cy Young very often.

What are Darvish and Maeda’s chances of becoming the first Japanese player to win a Cy Young?

Both Darvish and Maeda have a tough task ahead of them, Maeda even more so. The 32-year old is competing against Bieber and Ryu. Bieber finished fourth last season in Cy Young voting, while Ryu finished in second place in the NL. Here is how the Twins pitcher stacks up against the others:

  • Earned Run Average (ERA)
    • Maeda 2.70
    • Bieber 1.63
    • Ryu 2.69
  • Walks and Hits Per Inning Pitched (WHIP)
    • Maeda 0.750
    • Bieber 0.866
    • Ryu 1.149
  • Strikeouts
    • Maeda 80
    • Bieber 122
    • Ryu 72
  • Walks per Nine Innings
    • Maeda 1.4
    • Bieber 2.4
    • Ryu 2.3
  • Innings Pitched
    • Maeda 66.2
    • Bieber 77.1
    • Ryu 67
  • Wins
    • Maeda 6
    • Bieber 8
    • Ryu 5

Sad to say, but Maeda does not have a chance at the AL Cy Young Award. Credit to him for his extremely low WHIP and lack of free passes, but Bieber was just too good in 2020. Ryu also pitched well but he is not putting up a fair fight against Bieber for a Cy Young trophy.

Darvish on the other hand has a better chance at becoming the first Japanese ballplayer to win a Cy Young trophy, but his competition is still very tough: Bauer and deGrom who is a two-time Cy Young winner already. Here is how the Cubs ace stacks up:

  • Earned Run Average (ERA)
    • Darvish 2.01
    • Bauer 1.73
    • deGrom 2.38
  • Walks and Hits Per Inning Pitched (WHIP)
    • Darvish 0.961
    • Bauer 0.795
    • deGrom 0.956
  • Strikeouts
    • Darvish 93
    • Bauer 100
    • deGrom 104
  • Walks per Nine Innings
    • Darvish 1.7
    • Bauer 2.1
    • deGrom 2.4
  • Innings Pitched
    • Darvish 76
    • Bauer 73
    • deGrom 68
  • Wins
    • Darvish 8
    • Bauer 5
    • deGrom 4

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Bauer does have a good lead on Darvish in some of the categories and is the favorite for NL Cy Young. Darvish is still in the race and you never know how the association will vote. What I do know is that Darvish does have a better chance than Maeda to win the first Cy Young Award as a Japanese player.