Takashi Saito to return to Japan

By C. Trent Rosecrans | Blogger
Takashi Saito pitched three seasons with the Dodgers. (Getty Images)

After seven years in the big leagues, Takashi Saito is returning to Japan. The 42-year-old has agreed to a deal with Japan's Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, according to Sponichi (via NPB Tracker).

Saito appeared in just 16 games for the Diamondbacks last season, by far his worst in his career in Major League Baseball. Although he had a 6.75 ERA in 2012, his career mark in 338 games is 2.34 in three seasons with the Dodgers and one year with the Red Sox, Braves, Brewers and Diamondbacks. The right-hander finishes his career in the United States with 84 saves.

Although Saito finished eighth in the Cy Young voting and seventh in Rookie of the Year in 2006, as well as making the 2007 All-Star team, Saito was hardly a household name. But looking at his statistics, one jumps out at once -- ERA+.

As explained earlier in our pitching stats primer earlier this offseason, ERA+ compares a pitcher's ERA to the rest of his league while adjusting for park factors. In 2007, Saito recorded 39 saves, but more importantly, he had a 319 ERA+, and over his career, he put up a 185 ERA+. That mark puts him in some elite territory.

Dayn Perry went to Baseball-Reference.com to see which pitchers in history have a career ERA+ of better than 150, while pitching more than 300 innings. Check out what he found:

That's heady territory for Saito, but it's also more interesting because he didn't start his big league career until he was 36. Saito was 87-80 with a 3.80 ERA in 13 seasons with the Yokohama BayStars in Japan before coming to the US in 2006. Saito returns to his hometown of Sendai, home of the Golden Eagles. The Golden Eagles have also recently signed Andruw Jones and Casey McGehee.

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