- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

Takahashi Can Start

Hisanori Takahashi has proven himself to be both a versatile and talented pitcher in his short time with the New York Mets. The 35-year-old Japanese rookie has a 3.95 ERA and a 3.79 FIP in 107 innings split between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Between the two, Takahashi has compiled 1.4 WAR and shown that he is worth of a full time MLB starting role.

Takahashi’s agent, Peter Greenberg, released a statement that suggested that Takahashi may prefer a partciular role and that said role is a determinant in which team Takahashi signs with in 2011:

“He has obviously established himself in the major leagues. He liked it in New York and would love the chance to take the next step here. But we’ll have to wait until the season ends to sit down with him to see what he’s thinking for next year as far as if he has a preference to any particular role.”

Given that Takahashi spent most of his years with the Yomiuri Giants in the NPB as a starting pitcher, and that he has managed a 2.6 K/BB as a starter in the MLB, the “particular role” and “next step” suggested by Greenberg is probably the role of Major League starter. Takahashi has posted a 5.01 ERA as a starter in 2010, but that is mostly due to a high HR/FB rate – his 2.6 K/BB rate in that role is effectively equal to his K/BB rate as a reliever.

Even with the high amount of home runs allowed, Takahashi has still posted roughly half a win as a MLB starter in 64.1 innings. At that rate, he would be a 1.5 WAR pitcher over a full season, and with regression over his HR rate., there’s no reason to believe Takahashi wouldn’t be an above average pitcher. One needs only to look at his success as a reliever to see how: in 42 relief innings, Takahashi has struck out 54 batters while walking only 18 and allowing only one home run. Takahashi has been nothing short of fantastic in his relief role, compiling nearly one whole win above replacement in 42 innings in the role.

The fact that Takahashi has been so successful in the relief role seems to suggest that he remains there, but the only real difference between his perfomance as a starter and as a reliever appears to be the amount of home runs allowed. It is likely that Takahashi (or any other pitcher, for that matter) would allow more home runs as a starter than as a reliever, but not to the extent that Takahashi has in his one major league season: a 1.54 HR/9 as a starter against a 0.18 HR/9 as a reliever. It’s far more likely that Takahashi would allow a 1.00 HR/9 as a starter like he has overall this season. With that kind of home run line, his 2.6 K/BB would play quite well in a starting role.

The fact that Hisanori Takahashi has given up a multitude of home runs as a starter belies the kind of season that he is having. In reality, Takahashi has shown that he has no problem retiring Major League hitters. Yes, he may be more suited to a relief role – in reality, most pitchers are – but there’s certainly reason to believe that he can succeed in a starting role. If that is indeed the case, teams should target him as a starter – not only would Takahashi be more likely to sign, but the increased amount of innings would lead to more value added to the team as well.