Whatever happened to Hisanori Takahashi?

This time last year one of the big player personnel moves facing the Mets was what to do with Hisanori Takahashi. It was complicated due to Rule 8(i)(2), which made it necessary for the Mets to sign him by Halloween. And if you recall, the Mets had just fired their general manager and had yet to bring Sandy Alderson aboard.

When the Mets did hire Alderson, he negotiated with Takahashi’s agent to extend the deadline a couple of days. But even with the extra time, the Mets could not come to an agreement with the lefty swingman. Takahashi went out on the open market and signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Angels.

In 2010, Takahashi was very good when used out of the bullpen, as he had a 2.04 ERA in 57.1 IP as a reliever. He even ended the year as a closer, as he took over for the suspended Francisco Rodriguez. Earlier in the season, Takahashi bounced back and forth between starting and relieving. His posted a 5.01 ERA in 67.1 IP as a starter, which made everyone think he was overmatched in the role.

But Takahashi had two really bad outings that helped skew his numbers, starts that were not indicative of his actual ability. The first was in the bandbox known as Hiram Bithorn Stadium and the other was when he went 13 days between starts. Take those two outings away and Takahashi had a 3.83 ERA as a starting pitcher.

The Angels signed Takahashi to be a reliever and he did not make a single start in 2011. After a dreadful start, Takahashi pitched well over the final four months of the season. Here are his numbers the first two months of the year versus the final four:

Apr-May: 22.1 IP, 4.84 ERA, 11 BB, 16 Ks, 4 HR
June-on: 45.2 IP, 2.76 ERA, 14 BB, 36 Ks, 3 HR

In 2010, Takahashi posted a fWAR of 1.6 which they pegged as being worth $6.4 million on the open market. In 2011, his fWAR was just 0.4, which they calculated as being worth $1.8 million . Since Takahashi signed for $8 million over two years, it looks like the Angels did not get their money’s worth in the first year of this deal.

Meanwhile, the Mets signed Chris Capuano for $1.5 million and he produced a fWAR of 1.6, which is worth $7 million. The Mets made off better with Capuano than the Angels did with Takahashi. Of course, Capuano performing as a starting pitcher for most of the season and having a 186.0 to 68.0 edge in innings pitched had a lot to do with the fWAR difference.

We’ll never know how Takahashi would have fared if he was allowed to make the 31 starts for the Mets that Capuano did in 2011. My guess is he would have performed a bit better than Capuano. But since the Mets were pinching pennies, the difference in salary would not have been worth whatever increase in production Takahashi might have given.

It appears that Alderson made the right call on Takahashi and his fifth starter for 2011. Still, I enjoyed Takahashi’s tenure with the Mets and I hope he pitches as well for the Angels in 2012 as he did the final four months of 2011.

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