Time with Dodgers: 1995-1998, 2002-2004
Stats: 81-66, 3.74 ERA, 903 SO, 1,217 1⁄3 IP, 605 G, 163 ERA+, 2.26 FIP, 0.906 WHIP
Baseball Reference WAR: 15.2
FanGraphs WAR: 19.6
Combined WAR: 17.4
In February of 1995, the Dodgers signed Hideo Nomo to a minor-league contract. Although he wasn’t the first Japanese player to appear in the big leagues, he was definitely the first big-time Japanese star to make it.
Nomo took the league by storm, winning National League Rookie of the Year. In addition to being the best rookie arguably in all of baseball, he established himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Nomo finished fourth in Cy Young voting, and even started the All-Star Game for the National League.
For the 1995 season, Nomo went 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA. In 28 starts, Nomo had four complete games with three shutouts. In 191 innings, he struck out a league-leading 236 batters with a league-best 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Nomo was a damn strikeout machine.
As I mentioned, he got the start in the All-Star Game for the National League as a rookie. It would be the only time during his career that he would be named an All-Star. Prior to the game, Nomo was making a serious Cy Young push... as a rookie. He was 6-1 with an ERA of 1.99. Opponents were hitting only .158 off of him and he had 119 strikeouts in only 90 innings of work.
He threw two scoreless innings in the start.
This would end up being Nomo’s best season of his 12-year career in the majors.
1996 was still a very good year for the 27-year-old. He went 16-11 and had a 3.19 ERA. He struck out 234, although his rate came down by nearly two strikeouts, as he was averaging only 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings. However, his 1996 campaign was highlighted by arguably two of the best starts of his career.
On September 17, Nomo did the impossible and threw a no-hitter at Coors Field. To this date, it’s still the only no-hitter in the history of the stadium, and it likely will stay that way for a long time. In addition to allowing no hits, Nomo also struck out eight.
Speaking of strikeouts, Nomo struck out a career-high 17 on April 13 against the Marlins. He went all nine innings, allowing only one run on three hits. Nomo joined Sandy Koufax, Dazzy Vance and Ramon Martinez as the only pitchers in Dodgers history to have at least 17 strikeouts in a single game. Koufax and Martinez both struck out 18 in a game.
The strikeout numbers went up for Nomo in 1997, as he struck out 233 and was averaging more than 10 per nine innings. He won 14 games, but his earned run average went up a full run to 4.25 and he was allowing more hits and walking more batters than ever before.
In 1998, Nomo struggled tremendously. He was 2-7 with an ERA above five and was traded to the New York Mets. Nomo bounced around, playing for four different teams before he ended up back in Los Angeles in 2002. He was great for the Dodgers during his first two seasons back with the team. He went 32-19 while posting an ERA of 3.24. Nomo remained healthy, too, making 67 starts. His strikeout numbers weren’t what they used to be, as he struck out only 370 in 438 2⁄3 innings of work.
After shoulder surgery in the offseason of 2003, Nomo had one of the worst seasons by a starting pitcher in major-league history in 2004. He went 4-11 in 18 starts, and posted an earned run average of 8.25. In 105 innings of work, Nomo allowed 77 runs and had only 54 strikeouts.
September 17, 2004, would be his final start for the Dodgers. He allowed six runs in 1 1⁄3 innings.
Here’s where Nomo ranks among pitchers in LA Dodgers history who have made at least 150 starts:
- 1,200 strikeouts (9th)
- 81 wins (15th)
- 1,217 1⁄3 innings (16th)
- 3.74 ERA (19th)
- 23.4 strikeout % (3rd)