MLB: Darvish Passes Nomo For Most K’s By Japanese-Born Pitcher

Yu Darvish of the San Diego Padres pitches in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles on August 14, 2023 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images)

By Julian Guilarte
World Baseball Network

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Yu Darvish, 36, set the strikeout record for Japanese pitchers on August 14 against the Baltimore Orioles in a 4-1 loss. 

Darvish struck out Orioles third baseman Ramon Urias on a high fastball at the end of the sixth inning  for the 1,919th strikeout of his career, moving him ahead of Hideo Nomo. It was Darvish’s sixth and final strikeout of the night.

Darvish and Nomo are both right-handed pitchers, and are the only pitchers to record 3,000 total strikeouts with 1,000 or more strikeouts in Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball. 

Nomo is currently an advisor in the baseball operations department for the Padres and was in attendance to witness the his record being broken. Darvish pitched seven innings and allowed four earned runs in the loss to Baltimore.

Darvish spoke after the game about Nomo and breaking his record through Japanese interpreter Shingo Horie.

“I remember watching him on television when I was a kid, and we all know how great of a pitcher he is,” Darvish said. “So just being able to be in his league, it means a lot.”

Padres’ manager Bob Melvin spoke to Padres reporter AJ Cassavell about both pitchers after the game.

“Two absolutely fantastic pitchers, trailblazers… continued to do it for a long period of time both here and over there. Probably the best two Japanese pitchers of all time.” Melvin said.

Darvish will turn 37 on August 16, and has played for the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs before he was traded to the Padres in the offseason of 2020. Darvish was 18 when he began his career in Japan with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the NPB.

On Sept. 3, 2022, Darvish notched his 3,000th career strikeout combined between NPB and MLB fanning Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger in a 7-1 win. After the game, Darvish spoke through the Padres team interpreter and reflected on the moment.

“Longevity and just being able to stay in the game for this long. All in all, I’m grateful right now,” said Darvish.

Darvish has also pitched with Japan’s national team, helping Japan win the Asian Games in 2007, which qualified them for the Olympics in 2008. Darvish won two gold medals with Japan at the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and in 2023.

Darvish started his professional career in Japan when he was drafted out of Tohoku High School in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, and spent seven seasons with them from 2005-11. Darvish accomplished a lot in the NBP winning the championship in 2006, winning two Pacific League MVPs, and winning two gold gloves. He led the Pacific league in strikeouts three times and had the lowest ERA twice. His career numbers in Japan are 1,268 innings pitched with 1,250 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.99. He had a record of 93-38 and a WHIP of 0.97.

Darvish was 25 when he was posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the offseason of 2011. Darvish signed a six-year deal worth $60 million with the Texas Rangers on January 18, 2012. Darvish made the postseason with the Rangers twice in 2012 and 2016. 

In 2012, he pitched in the American League Wild Card Game against the Baltimore Orioles giving up two runs in 6.2 innings with seven strikeouts. The furthest the Rangers made it with Darvish was the American League Division Series against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2016.

His Rangers tenure was highlighted by his 2013 when he finished second in the AL Cy Young voting. Darvish led the league with 277 strikeouts and had an ERA of 2.83. Darvish had to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2015 and was only able to start 17 games in 2016. 

The Rangers weren’t competitive in 2017, and they swapped him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final year of his deal at the trade deadline. Darvish was a four-time all-star with the Rangers. 

Darvish and the Dodgers made the World Series against the Houston Astros, but he had two bad performances, giving up four runs in each of his starts, which both lasted less than two innings.

Darvish signed a six-year deal worth $126 million with the Chicago Cubs in the offseason leading up to the 2018 season. Darvish’s time with the Cubs lasted three years, which included the COVID-19 Pandemic shortened season of 2020. He pitched 294 innings with 371 strikeouts from 2018-20 for the Cubs. Darvish was traded to the Padres after the 2020 season.

Darvish is a five-time all-star with his most recent selection coming in 2021 with the Padres. This season Darvish has pitched 127.1 innings with 131 strikeouts. In his MLB career, Darvish has pitched 1,615.1 innings with 1,919 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.56.

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