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2010-season-in-review-takashi-saito | December | 2010 Articles

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2010 Season in Review: Takashi Saito

Written by Joe Lucia on .

I'll be honest with you: when the Braves signed Takashi Saito, I had no idea what the hell to expect from him. He was coming off the worst year of his career with Boston, a 2009 season that saw his strikeout rate plummet, his walk rate rise, and his homer rate shoot into the stratusphere. Despite all that, he still managed to post an ERA under 2.50, thanks to a huge 89.4% strand rate. A lot of people, myself included, figured he was done. There was nothing to really indicate that Saito had a ton left in the tank.

But he did. Oh, he did. Despite a career high 2.83 ERA, Saito's strikeout rate jumped to 11.50, well over his career mark of 11.00. His walk rate was perfectly in line with his career mark of 2.83. His homers remained high, but still manageable at 0.68 per 9 innings. The reason Saito's ERA was so much higher than his FIP (which was 2.43...or his ERA in 2009), was because of a .308 BABIP (20 points higher than his career mark), and an abysmally low 72.5% strand rate (nearly 10% less than his career mark, and below the league average). What I actually found most interesting about Saito's 2010 season: his xFIP and ERA were identical at 2.83. You don't see that happen too often.

It wasn't all roses for Saito, as he suffered some shoulder tendinitis in the middle of September that for all intents and purposes shut him down for the rest of the season. He got into a game or two before the season ended, but he wasn't effective at all. It was rumored that Saito's career would be over after the injury, as he turns 41 on Valentine's Day in 2011. But Saito apparently still wants to pitch next season. If he does, it won't be with the Braves, who have filled their bullpen without really giving Saito a second thought. It's a shame, because he really was fantastic for the team in 2010. He put up 1.2 WAR as a 40 year old pitching in 54 innings. That's some good stuff right there.

The signing of Saito paid major dividends. Frank Wren is really hoping that lightning strikes twice with George Sherrill, who is nowhere near as good or useful as Saito, but has had some worth in the past. Scott Linebrink is in the same situation with the team. If the Braves can get 1.5 WAR combined from the both of them, I'd say they adequately replaced Saito on the team.
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