Koji the Magnificent
As my esteemed colleague Alec Dopp has just written about the fabulousness of the Braves' Craig Kimbrel, I would like confer the rank of bullpen ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary upon the Red Sox closer Koji Uehara.
Obviously, no one wants to wish ill will upon any athlete, but ironically the best thing that happened to the Boston relief corp this season were the season-ending injuries to Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey.
Oh, that feels so awful to write.
Let's leave it at the elevation of Uehara to the closer's slot was truly a fortuitous event.
It started in the 6th inning
Red Sox manager John Farrell started this season with the great confidence of his brilliant analytic pitching mind and a deep bullpen.
On Opening Day, Jon Lester pitched five effective innings against the Yankees before Uehara came in for a scoreless 1-2-3 6th retiring the side on five pitches.
Koji was followed by the now-injured and done for the season Andrew Miller, the now-injured and done for the season Andrew Bailey, the frequently inconsistent and oft-unreliable Junichi Tazawa, and closed with the now-injured and done for the season Joel Hanrahan.
The next two appearances for Koji were also in the 6th inning and also perfect.
Oh yes, Uehara also started exhibiting the exuberance of a Little Leaguer, bounding off the mound to high-five his teammates in the dugout. Not showing anyone up or disrespecting his opponents or preening on the field, Uehara was genuinely excited to be helping his teammates.
If it is possible to create a positive chemical reaction from a set-up guy, his even then bearded brethren were seeing it and feeling it.
By mid-April, he was the 8th inning guy
Before the first month was done, Farrell knew that his previous bridge to the 9th inning, Daniel Bard, was on his way to a full-bore Steve Blass-like implosion that would lead him to the minors, to seclusion, to being DFA-ed, and to being sent to Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein and the Cubs. So now Farrell began to work Uehara and Tazawa in the 7th and 8th innings.
Tazawa was good, Uehara was better
May 6 was the end for Hanrahan
Bailey went down with his first injury of the season in early May and returned May 22. By May 6, Hanrahan was done for the season.
The 7th, 8th, and often the 9th innings, from the start of May to June 20, were the time for Junichi and Koji.
As Bailey started to struggle, Koji was winning the confidence of Farrell and Red Sox Nation.
On June 26, Uehara became the closer
Manager Farrell speaks to the stillness when Uehara is on the mound.
Koji works quickly, he hides the ball on his delivery, he keeps his teammates on their toes, and he has been remarkably successful.
Since he became the closer on June 26, Uehara has appeared in 33 games. He has 18 saves, two blown saves and is 3-0. The Red Sox are 30-3 in his appearances.
Check out his WHIP
|Greg Holland (KC)||31||25||1||0.87||0.677|
|Craig Kimbrel (ATL)||30||24||0||0.30||0.659|
|Rafael Soriano (WSH)||31||20||3||4.25||1.247|
|Kevin Gregg (CHC)||32||20||5||4.41||1.622|
|Kenley Jansen (LAD)||31||20||1||1.38||0.704|
|Grant Balfour (OAK)||26||19||2||3.28||1.257|
|Koji Uehara (BOS)||33||18||2||0.25||0.336|
|Fernando Rodney (TB)||27||17||3||2.42||1.308|
|Chris Perez (CLE)||32||17||2||3.27||1.242|
|Steve Cishek (MIA)||28||16||0||1.53||1.023|
|Mariano Rivera (NYY)||26||16||6||2.93||0.940|
|Jim Johnson (BAL)||26||16||5||2.63||1.500|
|Aroldis Chapman (CIN)||27||16||2||2.49||0.868|
|Addison Reed (CWS)||29||16||3||4.06||1.161|
|Sergio Romo (SF)||24||15||1||2.78||0.971|
|Glen Perkins (MIN)||28||15||2||2.79||1.138|
|Edward Mujica (STL)||27||15||3||2.25||0.964|
|Joe Nathan (TEX)||24||14||1||1.16||0.986|
Still don't believe me?
Check out the last month for these closers.
|Rafael Soriano (WSH)||16||12||2||15.1||63||229||3.63||12||3||16|
|Greg Holland (KC)||14||10||1||14.0||50||188||3.76||18||2||7|
|Danny Farquhar (SEA)||15||10||2||13.1||54||227||4.20||18||6||10|
|Craig Kimbrel (ATL)||14||10||0||14.1||50||171||3.40||15||0||7|
|Addison Reed (CWS)||14||10||1||14.1||59||225||3.81||13||4||11|
|Casey Janssen (TOR)||12||9||0||11.1||53||195||3.58||9||4||15|
|Rex Brothers (COL)||15||8||1||14.1||66||284||4.30||20||10||13|
|Koji Uehara (BOS)||12||8||0||13.1||41||161||3.93||17||0||1|
|Kenley Jansen (LAD)||12||8||0||12.1||46||211||4.59||18||5||4|
|Jim Henderson (MIL)||10||8||1||10.1||42||169||4.02||12||3||8|
|Huston Street (SD)||13||8||0||13.1||45||161||3.58||10||2||5|
|Grant Balfour (OAK)||12||8||1||11.1||56||256||4.57||12||9||12|
|Aroldis Chapman (CIN)||13||8||1||13.0||49||208||4.24||24||3||7|
|Mariano Rivera (NYY)||12||7||3||13.1||50||199||3.98||9||1||10|
|Kevin Gregg (CHC)||13||7||1||12.1||53||225||4.25||8||6||9|
|Steve Cishek (MIA)||11||6||0||11.0||41||149||3.63||11||2||7|
|Sergio Romo (SF)||10||6||0||10.1||37||126||3.41||7||2||5|
|Mark Melancon (PIT)||10||6||1||10.0||43||148||3.44||11||1||14|
|LaTroy Hawkins (NYM)||12||6||1||11.1||45||154||3.42||11||1||11|
|Joe Nathan (TEX)||10||6||0||10.0||41||163||3.98||13||4||7|
Go one column at a time
The Red Sox have been so dominant, they have not had to call on their closer as frequently as other teams, so Farrell hasn't had to overuse his 38-year old righty.
The next two columns show you that he has been 8-for-8 in save opportunities. Only Craig Kimbrel and Casey Janssen have better numbers.
It's the next two columns where you start to see Koji separate himself from the pack - Koji has pitched 13.1 innings and faced 41 batters. Read that again and do the math: 13 innings times three batters equals 39 plus another third of an inning equals 40 batters and Koji has faced 41?!
Go ahead, skip to the last two columns
Yes, since August 10, Koji Uehara has allowed one baserunner: a Lyle Overbay double on August 17 in a Sox 6-1 win over the Yankees at Fenway. He has retired the last 31 batters he's faced.
Uehara's splitter is magnificent
Uehara is sneaky fast but his splitter is terrific.
Look at the numbers
He's not the AL MVP
Koji may not be the AL MVP, but I think you would be hard pressed to find a more valuable member of the Red Sox.
Koji has been magnificent.