Yu and Ichiro target 4,000

Accomplishments of NPB's biggest stars should not be dismissed

Updated: August 13, 2013, 1:22 PM ET
By Dan Szymborski | ESPN Insider

On Monday afternoon, Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish threw another gem in a 2013 season full of them, flirting with a no-hitter against the Astros into the eighth inning, spoiled only by catcher Carlos Corporan's solo homer.

Over in New York, Ichiro Suzuki had a quieter night, with just a single in four trips to the plate, but that hit was his 3,994th between MLB and Japan, bringing him closer to a rarely reached threshold. Darvish and Ichiro represent the very best imports from NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) to date, players who haven't just succeeded in the United States, but make serious noise in MLB's record books.

Historical strikeout pace

If there was any question about Darvish's status as one of the most dangerous pitchers in baseball after an up-and-down 2012 season, he's dispelled any such skepticism in his sophomore season. After Monday's effort, Darvish stands as the best pitcher on one of the best teams in baseball and one with at least an outside shot at the Cy Young Award.

His latest stint against the Astros leaves him at 12-5 with a 2.64 ERA and 207 strikeouts, the latter number leading all of baseball; Matt Harvey and Felix Hernandez are tied for a distant second back at 178.

Even though he'll be only 27 later this week, Darvish's career strikeout numbers already look quite lofty. With 428 in the United States in less than two seasons and 1,250 for Nippon Ham, that already puts him just short of 1,700 (1,678) combined between MLB and NPB. The ZiPS projection system's best guess for the rest of Darvish's year adds another 65 strikeouts to the tally, giving Darvish 272 for the year, the biggest number since Randy Johnson's 290 in 2004. That puts Darvish at 1,743 combined strikeouts through his age-26 season. Here's the complete list of MLB pitchers with at least that many strikeouts through age 26: