Replacements for Hisanori Takahashi
Note: this is a post written by MetsToday sabermetric guru Matt Himelfarb
In seven starts, here are Hisanori Takahashi’s numbers to date:
15.85% K rate
7.32% BB rate
Those numbers are unworthy of a spot in the rotation, even for a fifth starter. The long-ball has been Takahashi’s undoing, but that is what happens when you have a 38% GB rate. At the very least, I would prefer to see a back-end starter with mediocre peripherals eat some innings, but Takahashi is a five-six inning pitcher at this point.
I used to be wholeheartedly against dealing for the Kevin Millwoods and Fausto Carmonas of the world. Given Takahashi’s initial success, I thought it would be a linear move at the best.
It has now become imperative, however, that the Mets replace Takahashi. Johan Santana is a major question mark. Mike Pelfrey has developed into a very good pitcher, but he is not a sub-3-ERA. pitcher, so he is due for some major regression. R.A. Dickey is, well, the man, and Jon Niese’s current performance is not out of line with what is expected of him, but it is not enough. For a team with playoff aspirations, Takahashi’s spot in the rotation is the most logical point for improvement. His stuff and poise suggests he can be a better pitcher,and 38 innings is a small sample size. But we are not talking about some young stud with eye toward the future. Takahashi does not have enough upside to justify retaining a spot in the rotation when better alternatives exist.
By replacing him, the Mets also simultaneously upgrade their bullpen; Takahashi can pitch to both righties and lefties and was absolutely filthy earlier in the year. Not to mention he adds depth to the rotation.
Let’s look at some of the outside options for the Mets:
Kevin Millwood: There is a lot to like about Millwood. Despite an unattractive 5.22 era. right now, Millwood has a 4.25 xFIP. He is posting very good peripherals (18% K rate 6.9% BB rate). His 1.68 HR/9 rate should regress significantly, given his career rate is .98.That xFIP goes down even further when you consider A) A move to Citi Field will further suppress his home run rate B) About a .10-.15 difference in era. between the AL and NL and C) Getting away from the AL East. Not to mention, he is a workhorse when healthy.
ZIPS only projects a 5.09 era. and 4.78 FIP going forward, though, largely because Millwood’s strikeout and walks numbers are expected to decline as the season wears on. In particular, he is striking out over 7 batters per nine innings- his highest rate since 2004. ZIPS projects he will strikeout less than six per nine going forward.
It is difficult to say what the Mets will get out of Millwood, but he is undoubtedly worth taking a flier on. Even in the worst case scenario, he is probably a slight improvement over Takahashi, and has some promising upside.
Fausto Carmona: Carmona’s xFIP’s with the Indians from 2008-2009 were 5.13 and 4.98 respectively. This year, he has a 3.64 era. and 4.49 FIP, due to improved command. Carmona’s strikeout (12.9%) and walk (8.2%) rate is not all that impressive, but he makes up for it with a 58% GB rate. In other words, he is somewhat like Mike Pelfrey before this year.
Carmona’s BABIP should go up to some extent, so ZIPS projects a 4.85 era. going forward. Like Milwood, going from the AL to the NL should help a bit, but we do not know if Carmona can maintain his newfound command. He is due $6.1 million next year, which, while reasonable, is no bargain either.
Of the two, I would probably prefer Millwood, who should also cost less.
Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee: The Mets have not been connected to Oswalt, mostly because of financial concerns. Oswalt is due the remainder of his $15 million this year, plus $16M in 2011 and a $16M club option in 2012 ($2M buyout).
If the Mets are, in fact, willing to add $15 million dollar pitcher, that would put their 2011 payroll at around $150 million. The Mets reluctance regarding Oswalt has less to do with money itself and more as to whether they think Oswalt in particular is worth the financial commitment.
Needless to say, Lee has been about twice as valuable as Oswalt over the last several years. Oswalt is a valuable pitcher, no doubt. He has been worth over three wins the last two years and is on pace for over four this year. But he does not have much in surplus value- what you’re paying for is what you get. Fortunately, that means he should not cost a bushel of prospects.
The Mets have what it takes to land Lee, but my guess is they are unwilling to to do so without the guarantee of a contract extension; this is a rational approach. If Lee is still Bronx-bound near the end of July, I would go for Oswalt.
So here is how exactly I would approach the deadline at this point:
One of: Robert Carson/Jeurys Familia
(72 hour extension window included).
No Jenrry Mejia, Wilmer Flores, or Jon Niese. If the Mariners insist on Fernando Martinez instead of Davis, it would be a tough call, but I doubt they would turn this offer down.
To replace Davis, the Mets could simply deal for Ty Wiggington or Adam LaRoche to take over first base duties the rest of this year.
Why Davis over the others? Davis has several flaws. He has a very long swing, and his plate discipline and pitch recognition are major question marks. We have seen changeups and breaking balls wreak havoc on him time and again.
In addition, Davis’s strikeout rate (23.4%), is acceptable if he can provide sufficient power. Unfortunately, that is a Kirsite-Alley-sized “if”. We all know he “steps in the bucket”, opening up his hips prior to contact and thus sapping him of power. We have also heard how he drops his hands into his load, making him vulnerable to fastballs in. And average-hitting first baseman are a dime a dozen.
Of course, all the above mentioned players are flawed in one respect or another, and I am sure there is some reason to think Ike Davis can rise to stardom. In addition, it is hard trading the only guy showing he can be successful at the big league level.
The consensus, however, is that Davis likely does not have a high ceiling. Now, having solid, albeit unspectacular young players on the cheap is good for any ballclub, and Mets would do well to heed this fundamental concept.
I have always been of the theory, however, that teams such as the Mets, given their financial advantage, should be more lenient about trading those kinds prospects, and always opt. for the higher ceiling player instead (which F-Mart, Mejia, and Flores all appear to be). If managed smartly, the Mets can always pay for average players on the market, but young all-star caliber players are rarely available, period. The two are not mutually exclusive, but in a scenario such as this, it helps guide the decision making.
By overpaying for Oswalt to save face for the Astros, we also acquire Lindstrom as a token prize.
As a type B free agent, Millwood is worth a compensation pick in next year’s draft, which is estimated to be worth around $2.5 million. He is still owed half of his remaining $12 million salary this year, however, so the Orioles would be wise to simply let Millwood go for some bats and balls instead of holding out for something more. Whitenton makes that decision easier.