Takahashi, Take Two

2009: Mets add a veteran lefty Japanese pitcher named Takahashi who is represented by Peter Greenberg.

2010: Mets add a veteran lefty Japanese pitcher named Takahashi who is represented by Peter Greenberg.

Unlike Ken last year though, Hisanori went straight to New York rather than taking a detour through Toronto.

So, what do the Mets have with this Takahashi?

I’ve written that I see Hisanori as an MLB reliever, but he doesn’t agree with me and was adamant about getting a chance to start during his negotiations. Hisanori has mostly been a mid-rotation starter in Japan, usually putting up respectable rate statistics but doing so in rather limited work. Only three times in his ten-year career has he logged more than 160 innings, most recently in 2007 when he threw a career-high 186.2. Last year, Hisanori threw 144 innings over 25 starts, putting up solid 7.88 K/9IP and 3.5 K/BB rates.

Durability seems to be one of the things that most obviously suffers when Japan-trained pitchers transition to MLB. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hiroki Kuroda, and Kenshin Kawakami all saw their number of innings pitch drop in MLB, in terms of both total innings over the season and innings pitched per start. Hisanori isn’t as good as any of those guys, and given that he will pitch this season at age 35, and that he’ll be adjusting to a new culture, new scouting data, a more demanding travel schedule, a different diet, and a more challenging league, it’s reasonable to expect a regression from him.

On the plus side, Hisanori is lefthanded and throws a good screwball. This is a low-risk move for the Mets — they aren’t committing a 40-man roster spot or a ton of money to him right off the bat, and he was the only free agent starter left on the market without health question marks. Still, the Mets have a long history of acquiring middling Japanese talent, and the smart money is on Ryota Igarashi to buck that trend, rather than this year’s Takahashi.

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Patrick Newman is a veteran enthusiast of Japanese baseball who happens to write about it at npbtracker.com, and on Twitter @npbtracker.

8 Responses to “Takahashi, Take Two”

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  1. Joe R says:

    I love how months ago Silva was troll #1 to saber-geeks, and now he’s citing K/BB, ERA+, etc in his blog posts. Well, he obviously wanted attention in his blog and he obviously got it.

    Sorry, random. But from what I heard, Hisanori had troubles w/ lefties in 2009 in Japan. So, a left handed pitcher who struggles v. lefties? Or was it just a case of SSS?

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      The screwball is a great weapon against batters on the opposite side of the plate because it breaks away from them. Pitchers who use it a lot will typically do as well or better against opposite handed batters.

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  2. That might have been secondhand info from the profile I wrote of him last year….


    I looked a little further into it, and over the last two years, lefties have hit for better average but less power against Takahashi. So, he’s probably not the type of guy you’d bring in to just get one lefty out with runners on base.

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  3. FTFKyle says:

    Funny, they have (potential) money for this crapshoot, but none for a catcher.

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  4. dorasaga says:

    Igarashi? The “Fifty Hurricanes”? (That’s what his family name mean…)

    I though he flamed out his arm a few years back, and still had control issues. I saw a game in person at Yokohama. I wasn’t impressed. He’s a high risk player, and I thought I was looking at a younger and, perhaps slightly slender, Irabu.

    Major League scouts are still very far from hitting the right evaluation methods for NPB pitchers. My 2 cents.

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  5. pounded clown says:

    Culture shock yes. Travel scheledule issues, of course he’s used to travelling across a country the size of CA. Challenges facing stiffer competition and a different style of game undoubtably. But I think his dietary concerns, if he has any, probably can be met without too much difficulty unless there are logistical considerations I am unaware of.

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    • You would be surprised. Home-cooked meals in Japan are quite different to what we get in Japanese restaurants in the States, and ‘normal’ Japanese ingredients, while available in most big metropolitan areas, are harder to get.

      It might be a subtle adjustment, but I know people going in both directions who have really struggled with dietary changes.

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