Amazin' Avenue Mets Awards: Best Reliever

When the Mets signed Hisanori Takahashi last February, it wasn't quite clear what they were getting. Takahashi was primarily a starter in Japan with decent-but-unspectacular strikeout rates and a moderate workload. Were the Mets adding a lefty specialist to a bullpen that already featured the useless-against-righties Pedro Feliciano?

Takahashi may be gone now, off to sign a multi-year deal with another team, but to whatever extent we can draw reasonable conclusions about a pitcher based on one season of work, we do have some idea now what kind of pitcher he is.

Takahashi appeared in 53 games this season: 12 as a starter and 41 as a reliever, though he pitched roughly the same number of innings in each role (64.2 as a starter, 57.1 in relief). As you might imagine, his effectiveness varied quite a bit between the two jobs. He struck out batters with much greater frequency as a reliever: 1.05 per inning versus 0.84 as a starter. On the surface, he seemed to walk batters a little more often when he came out of the bullpen, but a closer look turns up different results.

IP BB BB/IP uBB uBB/IP
as Starter 64.2 21 0.32 21 0.32
as Reliever 57.1 22 0.38 15 0.26

Takahashi was ordered to issue seven intentional walks as a reliever, but not once as a starter did his catcher hold up four fingers. Most places (websites, e.g.) that list walk rates do so without regard for the pitcher's intent, and that could very well misrepresent a pitcher's control, especially when it is so easily skewed by an unusually high incidence of intentional walk in a relatively small number of innings. Such is the case with Takahashi, who comes out looking like a dominant reliever when we account for walk type. His adjusted strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.00, which would place him just outside the top ten in the National League.

Takahashi was especially dominant against lefties, who hit just .217/.274/.270 in 126 plate appearances. That .544 OPS was tenth best in the NL. I don't know how he did against lefties strictly as a reliever, but I suspect it was even better than his overall lefty split (though the number of batters faced is probably so small as to render the predictive value essentially nil).

Overall, Takahashi was a valuable commodity for the Mets. He excelled in relief but didn't embarrass himself when he started. He dominated lefties but wasn't overwhelmed by righties. He also cost around a million dollars, for which the Mets received a great return on investment. Before the Mets negotiating window with Takahashi expired last week there were reports that he was looking for two- or three-year contract at $4 million or more per year. That could be reasonable money for a starting pitcher, even a merely decent one, but that's a lot to spend on a reliever with just one MLB season under his belt on a team that already has a $13 million closer.

Money aside, though, Takahashi was one of the bright spots on the 2010 Mets and we certainly wish him well wherever he lands, provided it's outside the NL East.

Here is how everyone voted.

1st 2nd 3rd
Alex Francisco Rodriguez Hisanori Takahashi Pedro Feliciano
Eno Francisco Rodriguez Hisanori Takahashi Bobby Parnell
Eric Francisco Rodriguez Hisanori Takahashi Bobby Parnell
James Pedro Feliciano Francisco Rodriguez Hisanori Takahashi
Joe Francisco Rodriguez Hisanori Takahashi Pedro Feliciano
Mark Hisanori Takahashi Pedro Feliciano Bobby Parnell
Matthew Hisanori Takahashi Bobby Parnell Pedro Feliciano
Rob Hisanori Takahashi Bobby Parnell Francisco Rodriguez
Sam Hisanori Takahashi Francisco Rodriguez Bobby Parnell

And here is the final vote tally.

Player Points
Hisanori Takahashi 21
Francisco Rodriguez 17
Pedro Feliciano 8
Bobby Parnell 8
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