A Quick Look at Ken Takahashi
Of this season’s credible Japanese import candidates, I’ve written by far the least about Hiroshima Carp lefty Ken Takahashi. The main reason for that is I’ve seen a lot more of Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami, but I can still share a few observations on Takahashi.
Career thus far
Takahashi made his debut for the Carp in 1995 after being drafted in the 4th round out of Toyota of the Industrial Leagues. He spent the first few seasons of his career primarily as a reliever before moving into more of a starting role in 2001. His career stats aren’t particularly impressive, but note that he’s been a little more effective in the years he’s been able to start consistently. Note also that Takahashi that while Takahashi put up a better era in 2008, he regressed slightly in walks, strikeouts, and ba against. The big thing I noticed about Takahashi last year was that he was among the Central League era leaders until about June, and then faded down the stretch. I don’t have any data on this, but I don’t think it was high pitch counts that wore him out. Marty Brown limits his pitchers pitch counts, and Takahashi only threw about 100 pitches in his single complete game last year.
Mechanics & Stuff
Takahashi has a fairly straightforward delivery with a high kick; here’s a slow-motion YouTube video of it from October 2008. That video might not be quite enough for Driveline Mechanics to really dig into, though. Here’s a longer highlight reel from a 173 pitch, 10-hit shutout he threw back in 2002. Note that back then he used a two stage windup, where he would bring his leading leg up, then down but not quite back to the ground, then back up, then finally down again to complete his delivery. You can see a really good example of this around 2:18, where Takahashi strikes out Hideki Matsui*. The two stage windup was banned a couple of years ago, so Takahashi no longer uses it.
Takahashi throws a fastball, slider, sinker and curve, but I have also have a photo that clearly shows him throwing a circle change. Based on his walk numbers over the years I’d say his control isn’t phenomenal, but he is capable of keeping the ball down.
* He also gets Matsui at 1:17 of the same video.
Takahashi is looking for an MLB job this offseason, and apparently drawing some interest. The Carp have never qualified for the playoffs in his 14-year Hiroshima career, and seeing former teammate Hiroki Kuroda spray the champagne in celebration of the Dodgers’ division title was a motivating factor for him. According to an interview with Shukan Baseball from earlier in the year, seeing pitchers like Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi and Masa Yamamoto continue to have success into their 40’s has given Takahashi the courage to attempt the leap to MLB.
Given that Takahashi will be 40 next April and will have adjust to a full-time relief role in the America, I think he’s in for a little bit of an uphill battle. Still, he had a nice string of successful starts at the beginning of last season, is left handed and seems to have a couple of decent breaking pitches, so if he’s in the right role and environment I could see him being a useful pitcher.