The Red Sox knew they were getting a valuable major league arm when they signed Koji Uehara this past winter. But did they really know they were going to get this?
The veteran right-hander has been one of the most important Red Sox this season in a year where the Sox have gone from the laughingstock of baseball to holding a four-game lead in the American League East on Aug. 14. That’s been in large part due to Uehara, who has been invaluable in whatever role he’s taken for the Boston bullpen.
Early in the year, when the pen was a strength of the Red Sox, Uehara was mowing batters down in a setup role. With Andrew Bailey‘s injuries and inconsistencies as well as Joel Hanrahan‘s season-ending injury, Uehara was called on to serve in a different role. He’s been the Boston closer since June 26, and over that time period, he’s been the club’s most consistent closer since Jonathan Papelbon.
The numbers certainly speak for themselves since Uehara took over the closer’s role. ESPN’s John Buccigross tweeted some of the Japanese right-hander’s dominant stats Wednesday morning, and they are eye-popping.
Koji Uehara - Since Taking over Red Sox Closer Role (June 26) ERA 0.36 1st WHIP 0.45 1st Opp BA .110 1st—
John Buccigross (@Buccigross) August 14, 2013
Those numbers are pretty spiffy, to say the least. Using that tweet as the jumping-off point, it’s worth digging even deeper to see how dominant Uehara has been since taking over the role.
Perhaps the most impressive number about Uehara, however, is 4.25 million — in that he’s making $4.25 million this year while turning into a very reliable closer (he also just reached a vesting option for 2014 at the same figure with a chance to push that number to $5 million). There’s still a long way to go, though. He’s never thrown more than 66 2/3 innings in a season, and he’s now sitting at 54 2/3 midway through August. He’s going to be tested — in high-pressure situations with high-pressure pitches — like he never has before, and that’s even before potentially pitching in the playoffs.
However, if Uehara can continue to perform anything like he has since taking over as closer, Boston will enter the stretch drive and maybe the postseason with a very reliable arm in the back of its bullpen.