If you haven’t heard by now, Koji Uehara is now closing games out for the Sox. With Andrew Bailey‘s recent incompetence and Uehara’s current success, the Japanese right hander was and is a logical fit to be John Farrell‘s ninth inning man.
While Koji Uehara might be more well known as the guy traded for Chris Davis, Uehara’s on-field production has also made him known as one of baseball’s most reliable relievers. Armed with his signature split-fingered fastball, Uehara has struck out a remarkable 10.2 batters per nine for his career and has reached a career high rate of 12.6 in his first season with the Sox.
However, what separates Uehara from most relievers isn’t the high strikeout rate; it’s his innate ability to K hoards of batters while severely limiting the amount of free passes. In 241 and 2/3 innings of work for his career, Uehara has walked just 36 batters, which comes out to a minuscule number of 1.34 BB/9. When combining his control artistry with his annual hit suppression (sub .175 opponent average the past two seasons) and strong strikeout numbers, the statistics clearly indicate that Uehara has all the tangibles necessary as a closer.
Furthermore, Uehara has had experience in this role before when he was a member of the Orioles back in 2010. In that capacity, Uehara recorded 13 saves in 15 chances and posted his typically excellent strikeout, walk, and hit numbers (44 IP, 11.25 K/9, 1 BB/9, .95 WHIP, 2.86 ERA).
Although there are some firm believers in the need for a more proven closer, Uehara’s overall game and previous success in the role should allow him to flourish in the ninth.