Save Opps: Hisanori Takahashi

By Eriq Gardner //

Somewhere out there in fantasyland, a team owner is going to lose his league by a couple of saves — maybe the result of Francisco Rodriguez losing his temper, assaulting the father of his girlfriend, suffering a torn ligament in his thumb, and hitting the injury shelf for the season.
Those who play fantasy baseball are accustomed to fickle closers and the sometimes-aggravating, sometimes-fun pursuit of saves. Few of us, though, could have ever imagined a scenario this bizarre. The xFIP formula doesn’t account for off-the-field commotion.
On the optimistic side, somewhere out there in fantasyland, a team owner will win his league by a couple of saves — perhaps the result of a new job opportunity for new Mets closer Hisanori Takahashi. On Monday, he notched his first save, and afterward, manager Jerry Manuel tagged him as “the guy” going forward. He pitched a perfect 1 2/3 innings on Wednesday, further solidifying his role.

Takahashi is being picked up in many leagues with tight saves races. Can he keep the job?

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The season has been a strange one for the Japanese import.
In April, the 35-year-old was an effective reliever in the middle of the Mets pen. Despite never having a particularly strong strikeout rate in Japan, Takahashi mastered American batters that month to the tune of 21 strikeouts in 14 innings. Credit an extremely odd pitch called the “shuuto” for Takahashi’s sudden emergence on the scene.
In late May, Takahashi was then switched into a starting pitching role. His first two starts were impressive. He shut out the fearsome New York Yankees. He then shut out the imposing Philadelphia Phillies. So far, so good.
In June, the wheels came off. He allowed six earned runs in four innings in the pitchers’ haven known as Petco Park against the San Diego Padres. He followed that up by allowing five earned runs in five innings to the Florida Marlins.

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Ever since then, he’s followed form by being at times fantastic, and other times atrocious. 
Truth be told, there are some statistics that support the idea that Takahashi can hold the closer gig for the rest of the season. As a starter, his ERA is 5.01 with 54 Ks in 64.2 innings. But as a reliever, his ERA is 2.68 with 42 Ks in 37 IP. He’s clearly been more effective in the latter role.
On the other hand, regardless of Takahashi’s skills, he’s proven himself a bit unstable — not a good quality for a closer — plus he’s 35 years old and pitching for a team that’s fairly close to being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Given the Mets’ place in the standings, the wise move for them to try Bobby Parnell out as closer. Parnell doesn’t have a “shuuto” pitch. Instead, he has a fastball that averages 96 MPH and has been known to reach near 100 MPH. Parnell is only 25 years old and is having a great season with 22 strikeouts to only 6 walks in 22 innings. He could easily be the Mets’ closer-of-the-future, a distinction that may mean something if the Mets are truly serious about voiding the rest of K-Rod’s contract.
For this reason, as a fantasy owner, we’d probably hang on to guys like Bobby Jenks or Jonathan Broxton — temporarily out of jobs as closers of the White Sox and Dodgers, respectively — before adding a newcomer like Takahashi. Then again, would it be shocking if Takahashi sticks these final weeks and leads some fantasy team to a championship? Of course not. In New York, clearly anything is possible.
For more on the closer carousel, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits

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