Braves Sign Saito, Insert Old Jokes Here

Coming to a ballpark near you: Ghosts of Closers Past, by Frank Wren.

You could be lazy and look at Takashi Saito’s 2.43 ERA in 55.2 innings for Boston last season and think “he’s back”, but there’s some stuff going on here under the surface, and it’s not so good. Saito’s career K/9 of 10.9 dropped to 8.4, which is substantiated by an 80% contact rate. Compare that to a career rate of 73%. His walks were also up, as more batters sat back on his breaking stuff rather than chasing it outside of the zone.

Saito also became an extreme fly ball pitcher – 52% of his balls in play were flies, but 18% of those were of the infield variety, so that’s at least a positive here among some negatives.

Throw this and more together and out pops a 4.40 tRA – not completely terrible, but a clear decline across the board for Saito. It’s definitely not what you would want to see out of high leverage reliever.

The Red Sox, being the smart organization they are, saw this and were wary of giving Saito situations with little wiggle room. Saito’s average leverage index was 0.67. Translation: Saito was given mop-up duty. The Red Sox trusted others with more important situations. Now the Braves are likely going to thrust him back into working some crucial innings. Perhaps a little further removed from injury and Saito could be a little better, but at 40 years old I wouldn’t bank on it.

It’s hard for me to fathom this, but he Braves — a team with more serious concerns than building a bullpen (ahem, outfield) just gave $10 million and a draft pick to get a couple of brand name but geriatric relievers. And neither are far removed from some rather serious injury concerns. Good luck with that, Atlanta.

That being said, it’s not like the price is crazy, as in the case with Wagner.

You can enter your projection for Saito here.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

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David R
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David R

I think what the Braves lost in overpaying slightly for these guys, they gain back in the fact that these are low-risk one year deals. The worst that can happen is they both have sub-par years and are gone. The best that can happen is Saito is a dependable setup man and Wagner performs at the elite level he has always performed at. If Wagner finishes 50 games, his vesting option kicks in which, at the worse, gives the Braves another year of a HoF candidate. Saito is gone with no strings attached no matter what.

I think Wren has a trade in the works or else he wouldn’t have devoted 10 Mil to the bullpen so quickly. And the outfield isn’t as much of a concern as it seems.. McLouth is a 3-4 WAR player, Diaz has proven to be a very capable LFer, and Heyward will be ready soon enough. I’d like to see a Mike Cameron-type in the outfield but it isn’t the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. 1st base is the real issue and I am confident Wren has something in-line because I truly don’t feel that he would have gone through with these moves so hastily if he didn’t.