It is rumored that the Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, and Cubs are all interested in Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. I think it's a little early to start the hoopla over a pitcher who will be available after the 2008 season at the earliest, and may or may not be posted by his team. But for now, I'll play along.
Yu Darvish hails from the Pacific League of Japan, the more difficult of the two leagues because it uses the designated hitter rule. On the other hand, Darvish's home stadium the Sapporo Dome, is one of the largest parks in Japanese baseball. Koshien Stadium has traditionally been the most pitching friendly park in Japanese baseball. But the newly built Sapparo Dome's left and right field walls are more than 13 feet further, it's centerfielder wall more than 6 feet further. And the Dome's outfield wall is nearly 20 feet tall all around.
If Darvish is posted, which is pure speculation at this point, it will be interesting to see what kind of a posting fee and salary that he'd command. That will depend on a few factors. First of all it will depend on Darvish's 2008 season. He won the Sawamura Award last year (the equivalent to the Cy Young Award in MLB) in his career best year. If he has a similar year next year, he'll likely command a much higher salary and posting fee than Daisuke Matsuzaka. If, however, he reverts to his career averages, his posting fee likely won't be as much. Darvish's value could also depend on how Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hiroki Kuroda translate their success in Japan to success in the majors next year.
Here's a quick comparison of Darvish and Matsuzaka. I'll look at their last two years in Nippon Professional Baseball, so as to avoid Darvish's rookie year.
Darvish in 2007 - 207.2 IP, 1.82 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 5.33 H/9, 2.12 BB/9, 9.10 K/9
Matsuzaka in 2006 - 186.1 IP, 2.13 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 6.67 H/9, 1.64 BB/9, 9.66 K/9
Darvish in 2006 - 149.2 IP, 2.89 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.70 H/9, 3.85 BB/9, 6.91 K/9
Matsuzaka in 2005 - 215 IP, 2.30 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 7.20 H/9, 2.05 BB/9, 9.46 K/9
As you can see, Matsuzaka has better walk and strikeout ratios, even when compared to Darvish's best year. But Darvish's 2007 season was statistically better than any that Matsuzaka has ever posted. As of now, I'd say both are rather similar talents. Matsuzaka is the more proven of the two but both are young and both won the Sawamura Award in their age 20 seasons. Darvish is also six years younger.