A star pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan, Hisanori Takahashi was an afterthought when the Mets were putting together their roster this spring. I saw him make his major league debut, but I was paying more attention to Jenrry Mejia and Ruben Tejada that April night.
After that rocky start, Takahashi emerged as a reliable long-reliever. He held that role for the first six weeks of the season, until Jon Niese suffered a minor hamstring injury. Takahashi started in Niese’s place on May 21st and shut out the Yankees for six innings.
He pitched another six shutout innings against the Phillies on May 26th, one of the few games I attended that the Mets won. Takahashi remained in the rotation through the early part of summer, but as National League hitters became more familiar with his unconventional delivery his effectiveness diminished.
Takahashi was moved back to the bullpen in August. By the middle of the month, he was working as the team’s closer after Francisco Rodriguez injured his thumb in an off-field incident. He saved 8 games in 8 opportunities, excelling in the role despite limited experience closing games.
Hisanori Takahashi is the first Mets rookie to win 10 or more games since Rick Aguilera did it in 1985. He was the first pitcher in baseball to have 10 or more wins and 8 or more saves in the same season since Francisco Cordero did it in 2006.
Takahashi will try to parlay his success and versatility into a multi-year contract this off-season. He is reportedly seeking a three-year deal worth at least $12 million, while the Mets are believed to have offered a one-year deal worth between $1.5 and $3 million.
I enjoyed rooting for Takahashi this year, so I would like to wish him success wherever he ends up in 2011. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s drawing interest from Philadelphia – I just don’t see how I can continue to root for him if he goes there.
The card pictured above is an autographed insert card from the 2010 Topps Chrome set. Takahashi’s only American cards are found in it – somehow, Topps left him out of the regular set’s update series.