Assuming he passes his physical, Colby Lewis is returning from Japan to his Texas Rangers roots.
Nothing has been written about Lewis this year without mentioning his two outstanding seasons with the Hiroshima Carp, most notably his other-worldly walk rate. But was it Lewis or Japan? We won’t really know until we see Lewis take to the hill in Arlington, but I can pass along a little insight from this NPB Sabermetric guide I picked up on my recent trip to Japan
Let’s start with that K:BB ratio. Lewis posted 9.79 K’s for every BB in 2009. The next best control pitcher in all of Japan was Chiba Lotte’s Yoshihisa Naruse at 5.57, and Yu Darvish, for comparison, posted a 3.71 rate. Lewis pitched in the DH-free Central League, where hitters accordingly struck out more than in the Pacific League, but the gulf between him and anyone else was so wide I’m going to say that this one was more Colby than Japan. Somewhat weirdly though, Lewis plunked 14 batters in ’09, nearly as many as the 19 he walked.
Thanks to his mastery of the strike zone, Lewis managed a .99 WHIP and a league-leading 2.53 DIPS figure, despite a .317 BABIP which was a bit below the Central League average of .298. And 2009 wasn’t exactly a fluke, as Lewis put up similar numbers in 2008.
Lewis’s success over the last two years recalls Koji Uehara’s excellent 2002-3 seasons, when he posted K/BB figures of 182/23 and 194/23 respectively. Uehara finally got his wish of playing in MLB last year, and despite being injury-prone and past his prime, still put respectable numbers in his limited number of starts. Lewis is doesn’t have Uehara’s injury history and is coming of the best seasons of his career. So there are reasons to be optimistic, and Lewis is definitely an interesting, low-risk alternative to guys like Jon Garland and Carl Pavano.