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« Peter Gammons: Premium Pitching in the NL East | Main | Fun With Baseball-Reference's Neutralized Stats »

The Red Sox are over-using Koji Uehara

The Red Sox have had nothing but trouble in the closer's slot ever since they let Jonathan Papelbon escape to Philadelphia after the 2011 season.

It's been a series of bad judgments, bad performances, and bad injuries in the back of the pen.

The Sox have seen eight different relievers earn at least one save for Boston 

Rk Player SV From To G GF
1 Alfredo Aceves 25 2012 2013 78 57
2 Andrew Bailey 14 2012 2013 47 30
3 Koji Uehara 5 2013 2013 40 12
4 Joel Hanrahan 4 2013 2013 9 6
5 Franklin Morales 1 2012 2013 43 6
6 Junichi Tazawa 1 2012 2013 77 20
7 Mark Melancon 1 2012 2012 41 17
8 Vicente Padilla 1 2012 2012 56 10
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/7/2013.

Koji Uehara is the latest to try closing

Koji Uehara is an exuberant, youthful 38-years old, but he has never appeared in as many games prior to the All-Star break.

  2009 2 4 .333 4.05 12 12 0 0 66.2 7 12 48 1.245
  2010 0 0   4.00 10 0 3 0 9.0 0 4 10 1.667
  2011 1 1 .500 2.03 37 0 17 0 40.0 6 8 52 0.750
  2012 0 0   2.11 20 0 8 0 21.1 3 2 22 0.703
  2013 2 0 1.000 1.93 40 0 12 5 37.1 5 8 53 0.830
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/7/2013.

In addition, he has never been in as many pressure situations as you can see by virtue of the fact that these are his first pre-break saves.

From June 26 - July 6

  • Koji has appeared in eight games.
  • He is 2-0.
  • He's earned four saves and blown two saves.
  • He has a 1.23 ERA and 0.704 WHIP.
  • He's pitched 7.1 innings, allowed four hits, one homer, one walk, and 11 whiffs.

Uehara has thrown 118 pitches, 87 strikes

Of the 118 pitches, 54 are fastballs, 59 are splitters

Uehara is throwing 74% of his pitches for strikes, but he is really heavily in the strike zone. There is not a lot of working of corners.

  • He averages 89.3 on the fastball.
  • He averages 81.1 on the splitter.

When you throw at that speed, location is an imperative

As you can see, too many Uehara pitches are up in the zone. Instead of working up-and-down, Koji's fastballs and splitters are working either side of the plate and that reduces the room for error.

Last night in Anaheim

Koji blew the save last night in the Red Sox 9-7 loss to the Angels. He cam into the game with the bases full, one down in the 9th trying to close out a 7-4 game.

He didn't.


  • He faced four batters and allowed two hits which permitted the three inherited runners to score and then when Brandon Snyder tossed the ball into right field on what should hav been the third out, the tying run scored. Uehara should never have put the Sox in that position, he just couldn't put anyone away.
  • He threw four fastballs - averaging 89.1. Batters swung at three, missed one.
  • He threw one slider - it was in a great location, low and away but it was 84.8 and at that speed Albert Pujols made the adjustment and lined it for a two-run single.
  • He threw 12 splitters - averaging 81.0. Batters swung at nine, missed four, but one went for a Josh Hamilton RBI single.
  • He has now allowed seven-of 19 inherited runners to score. Among prelievers who have inherited at least 15 base runners this season, Uehara ranks 56th with a an IRS tax rate of 36.84%.

Bottom Line

Koji is a good pitcher who seems to be a fun teammate. He is not built to be a closer, at least certainly not the closer of a post-season team, but he's a terrific bridge to the closer. 

Chances are really good that Red Sox GM Ben Cherington already knows that and is working those phones and hopefully for Boston he will land some bullpen help before Uehera is running on empty.

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