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.

2011 Projection

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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 November 5, 2010 at 2:07 pm
    Don’t get me wrong, I loved the job Takahashi did last season…..and he far surpassed any expectation I had from him — however:

    This guy makes less than zero sense for this current version of the team, heading into 2011 and beyond…..looking for a multi-year deal at any significant amount of money.

    Even with Santana’s status up in the air, and the need for starting pitching to fill out the back-end of the rotation, I’m – beyond a shadow of a doubt – of the belief that Takahashi will be further exposed with more time in The Majors.

    While I do understand his desire to be a starting pitcher in the U.S., I think he’d be best suited to being a reliever in someone’s pen – with the ability to spot-start as needed.

    He was good at points in 2010, but I think that guys started catching up to him with more video available. If his success vs. lefties evens out to what happened over in Japan throughout his career (lefties hit over .300 against him) — then I’d expect him to get smacked around a bit more next year.

    I’m with that, especially after a winter of compiling scouting reports. He’ll never replicate the success he had vs. lefties this year, IMHO.

    The only way that happens is in short-spurts, via relief appearances. (That’s really what kept him afloat in 2010.)

    If he’s not in our bullpen, then I wish him luck wherever he thinks he can get a pay-day as a starter. I’m betting he’ll find a fair amount of interest – but I don’t think this is the right situation for the Mets to pursue.

    He’ll be 36 by Opening Day. I wouldn’t go crazy trying to keep him, but if he was open to the bullpen role he had a fair amount of success in; limiting his innings….then I’d have him back on a 1-year deal, and see what’s up.

    Doesn’t sound like that’s going to be the case….considering all we’re hearing is “multi-year” — and the deadline’s almost up.

    I’m curious to see what he gets, and from who.

    My guy says, “Sayonara!”

  2. Andy November 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm
    I liked Howard Megdal’s idea of having Rodriguez and Takahashi as co-closers a la Orosco/McDowell:


    This approach would make keeping Takahashi less expensive than otherwise, because hiring Takahashi would save $14.5 million by preventing the Rodriguez option from vesting.

    • Joe Janish November 6, 2010 at 12:58 am
      Not a terrible idea, particularly if Tak came cheap again.

      But, if the goal is to avoid an option vesting, why not just trade K-Rod in July when pennant-contending teams are desperate for arms like his?

      • Andy November 6, 2010 at 2:12 pm
        Even if a team is desperate, I’m sure they could find a similarly effective bullpen arm for less than $17.5 million. Trade a bunch of prospects to the Royals for Soria, maybe. I don’t think anyone, even a pennant contender without a bona fide closer, is going to trade any prospects of value to the Mets for K-Rod AND assume the entire obligation.
  3. gary s. November 6, 2010 at 12:09 am
    the mets said sayanara..if the reports are true, 12-15 mill for 3 years, they made the right move..he was fun to watch but he’s not worth that kind of money
    • Andy November 6, 2010 at 12:16 am
      I agree – that’s too much. I’m not totally sure what his agent is thinking, because I don’t think anyone else would pay that much.

      3 years for $9 million maybe would be okay, especially if the Mets were going to use him as a co-closer and keep the Rodriguez option from vesting.