Lost in translation

Some Japanese stars shine in America while others spectacularly fail

Originally Published: June 25, 2013
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine

illoViktor Koen for ESPNSigning individual Japanese players is still a crapshoot for American teams.

SABERMETRICIANS ARE TRANSLATORS. They don't just collect numbers, add them up and make lists. They figure out ways to convert data from one environment to another so that we can try to understand how Kevin Gausman will fare when jumping to the big leagues, or how much David Ortiz gains from hitting in Fenway, or what Willie Mays' stats would have looked like if he had played in the 1990s instead of the 1960s (hint: a lot better).

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.