If there was one weakness for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011, and I use that term loosely for lack of a better term, it was finding a pitcher who could consistently perform in the seventh inning as a set up to the eighth inning for David Hernandez before giving way to closer J.J Putz. Bryan Shaw did alright in that role. Other than that, it was really by committee until it got to Hernandez on days he was available to pitch. Now, with the acquisition of Takashi Saito, he could be the guy the D-backs are looking for to shore up that link between the starter and Hernandez on days the starter can’t go at least a full seven.
Saito, who turns 42 on February 14th, certainly has age on him but does not lack experience nor productive career numbers. He has pitched in 322 career games with a 2.18 ERA over that span. He has 84 saves in those 322 games. However, with a closer and a set-up guy already, it seems logical to use Saito in the seventh and then in the eighth in days that Hernandez is unavailable.
Saito also knows how to keep the ball in the ballpark as well. He’s only given up 21 home runs over 326 innings pitched. That’s pretty impressive. He also has 389 strikeouts, averaging more than one per inning. He’s a journeyman over the past few seasons. the last three seasons he has been with the Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, and the Milwaukee Brewers. He was 4-2 with a 2.03 ERA last season for the Brewers, including one win against the D-backs. He also got a win against the D-backs in the NLDS. He pitched three innings over three games in that playoff series, giving up just two hits.
Saito should prove to be a stable force in the bullpen in 2012. I realize most of the talk around D-backs pitching is with the starting rotation, however with the addition of Saito, if he produces like he has his entire career, it just might be the bullpen that gets a lot of the attention in 2012.