The Cubs made a minor signing today but it could end up being a very useful one.
With the loss of Jeff Beliveau, the team had only one lefty in the bullpen in James Russell. The Cubs may have fixed the situation with the signing of former Angel and Pirate Hisanori Takashi to a minor league deal.
Takashi, 37, stands just 5'10" and weighs 175 lbs. As you might expect, he's more of a change speeds, mix and match type, using an 87-89 mph fastball and a full array of pitches to get hitters out. The best of those pitches is his change-up.
He appeared to have a bad year on the surface, posting a 5.54 ERA, but a closer look shows it wasn't all that different from his career numbers. Takashi had some bad luck when it came to stranding runners, allowing 40% of those baserunners to score as compared to 28% the previous season. He also had an uptick in the percentage of flyballs that left the yard, causing his average of HRs allowed per 9 innings to go up from 0.93 to 1.43.
In the end, Takashi's peripherals were the same, even a bit better. The FIP was almost exactly the same in 2012 (3.93) as it was in 2011 (3.94), when he put up a 3.44 ERA His xFIP, which normalizes for HRs, was even better in 2012 (3.79) despite the inflated ERA. Moreover, the strikeouts per 9 IP (9.3) were a career high, while the walk rate (2.5) was a career low. There was a lot to like about his 2011 season, even if the results didn't show it.
Bill James' projection for 2013 looks for him to rebound from an unlucky season. He has him pegged for a 3.38 ERA and a strikeout/walk ratio o 8.2/2.8 per 9 IP.
What we can expect from Takashi is a guy who can get lefties out. He's held them to a .238/.283/.381 line in his career.
This is a good under the radar signing that does not take up a spot on the 40 man roster, yet Takahashi has a good shot of making the Cubs this spring as the only lefty RP behind Russell with any MLB experience. The Cubs reportedly had their eye on J.P. Howell as well, but Takahashi has put up better peripherals, and appears to have better control and strikeout ability. He could end up having the better season next year.