2010 Analysis: Hisanori Takahashi
Takahashi was the less-heralded Japanese pitcher signed by the Mets last winter, and some less-in-touch fans might have confused him with Ken Takahashi. But by the end of 2010, there was no confusion as to who was Hisanori Takahashi, and he far outperformed the supposedly better-skilled Ryota Igarashi.
“Tak” did everything that was asked of him and more – starting, mop-up relieving, executing matchup situations, setting up, closing. He was effective in all of those situations – a pitching jack-of-all-trades. If he had a flaw it was as a starting pitcher, where his performance usually fell off quickly after batters saw him a second and third time. Was it because he was not conditioned to throw beyond 40-50 pitches? Or was his first-round success due to mystery? No one knows for sure.
Perhaps the most surprising skill was his ability to strike out hitters — his K rate was 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Though, some of that was skewed by 21 Ks in 14 IP (13.5 K/9) in April – a time when unfamiliarity, cold weather, and batters getting their timing down might have influenced his effectiveness. Still, he struck out a shade under 8 per 9 innings in the month of September, when he took over the closer role and was excellent, saving 6 games and winning two others.
We bumped up this evaluation because the clock is ticking; Takahashi can become a free agent as of midnight tonight. His supposed demands are three years at $4M – $5M per. On the surface, that sounds obnoxious for a pitcher who may or may not be a one-year wonder. The Mets’ preference is a one-year deal at around $3M with an option – which to me is much more realistic. I’m not sure the market will bear much more than the Mets’ offer, but the problem is, it probably offers at least that. If the Mets don’t sign him today, they can’t sign him at all (the clause is if not today, then they can’t sign him until next May, at which point he’ll likely be signed by someone else). As well as Takahashi performed in 2010, I don’t know that it makes sense for the Mets to go beyond one year guaranteed – even a two-year deal at, say, $7M total, likely doesn’t fit into the Mets’ overall plans. All signs are pointing toward rebuilding in 2011 and into 2012, and Takahashi is more of a “final piece” for a pennant contender than pitcher you build around. In some ways, this situation is comparable to when the Mets let Darren Oliver walk – a veteran lefty swing man who might or might not have a few more years left. But it’s completely different in that the Mets were looking to repeat as NL East Champions in 2007, and therefore were in position to gamble on a key bullpen asset, whereas today, it doesn’t make much sense to gamble on someone who could very well turn out to be bullpen filler on a fourth-place team. In fact, it makes more sense to give those innings to young (and inexpensive) pitchers, to find out if they can develop into valuable assets when the Mets are “back in business” in 2013.