MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 16: (L-R) Takashi Saito #40 and Jonathan Lucroy #20 of the Milwaukee Brewers talk on the mound against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Six of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 16, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Takashi Saito doesn't really come with a highlight reel, so his season recap isn't too exciting. Though he missed almost three months due to various injuries, when he was on the field for the Brewers, he was solid, reliable and dependable - all things you like to see out of your back end relievers.
When you sign a 40-something year old reliever, that comes with injury risk and Saito did spend time on the 60-day DL this season. He started the season poorly, with an 0-1 record and 9.00 ERA prior to being placed on the DL April 6 with a left-hamstring sprain. While prepping to come back from the hamstring sprain, he left a rehabilitation outing April 28 with a left oblique strain. It got worse from there, as he was later scratched from a June 12 rehab appearance with upper back tightness.
Saito, who turns 42 in February, posted a 2.03 ERA and 23/9 K/BB ratio over 26 2/3 innings this season. Those stats, however, include his terrible open to the season. If you adjust to when he came off the DL, after returning in July he posted a 1.46 ERA and .186 opponents’ batting average in 25 innings.
He gave up four hits, but no runs, in six postseason appearances.
Contract Status: Saito's a Type A free agent, but as part of his contract he Brewers agreed not to offer him arbitration. His 2011 contract was $1.75 million for one year.
Its possible (though not probable) that this was Saito's last season in the majors. Despite good numbers, the injury risk is always there. The Brewers agreed not to offer him arbitration - the means other teams can sign him without having to forfeit a draft pick, which makes him more attractive. It also probably saved the Brewers from overpaying for him through arbitration. It's likely Saito would have taken whatever was offered because it would have guaranteed him a one-year contract for next season. However, Jon Heyman predicts he'll get two years, $10 million. Sounds like no one is quite sure what will happen with Saito.
It's likely that the new collective bargaining agreement (that may be announced today) would have Saito downgraded to a Type-B free agent.
Best Game: On July 20, the Brewers were deep in their hunt for first place, but had earned a reputation for being incapable of winning on the road. The team lost Carlos Gomez to a broken clavicle this game, but took a 2-0 lead into the 8th. Unfortunately, K-Rod couldn't hold the lead and the D-Backs tied it. Saito took the ninth and had a shaky start, giving up a double and then moving the runner to third with a wild pitch with nobody out. However, from there he induced two groundouts to third, holding the runner. He intentionally walked Kelly Johnson and got pinch hitter Sean Burroughs to fly out to center, holding the lead. The Brewers then put up three runs in the 10th, giving Saito the win.
You can see Saito get the final out of the inning at 1:44 of this video