Red Sox Solution To Koji Uehara Injury: Edward Mujica


With the season less than a week away, we all are slowly realizing that former immortal and savior Koji Uehara is human after all. The once dominant closer’s Opening Day status is more than unlikely due to his lingering left hamstring problem.

So, with this being all over the baseball world, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of publicity the fill-in closer is getting. Edward Mujica, Uehara’s backup for much of last season, appears to be the lead candidate for the closer’s role. Mujica was signed in the off-season following the 2013 season, a season where he posted numbers good enough to get him a roster spot on the NL All-Star team. The Red Sox inked him to a 2-year $9.5 million deal.

More from Red Sox News

With no one else in the bullpen having ‘Established Closer’ on their resume, why not have Mujica take the role? After all, he was signed to be closing depth in case Uehara caught up with father time.

During the 2013 season, one where Cardinal fans watched the Venezuelan native save 37 games for them, the closer seemed poised for another great season in 2014. So why wasn’t Mujica as affective as he previously was?

Change of scenery? Maybe, but I wouldn’t say so.

It appears to me that the main difference between All-Star Mujica and average Mujica is his split fingered fastball. Some of you may be asking yourselves ‘How could one pitch make or break a guy?’ well believe it or not, in some cases it really does.

So let’s take a look into Mujica’s splitter. In 2013, the righty posted an ERA+ of 135 for St. Louis through 64.2 innings pitched. For those unfamiliar with this metric, ERA+ adjusts a pitcher’s ERA according to the pitcher’s ballpark and league. ERA+ is set to an average of 100, meaning that anything over 100 is a percentage point better than league average and anything under is a percentage point worse than league average. In 2014 the Boston hurler posted an ERA+ of 100; exactly league average. Not bad by any means, but also not elite.

So let’s take a little deeper look into the wonderful world of pitch tracking to get a better read on Mujica. In 2013 he threw 56.1% splitters, the most of his career, resulting in 98 swings and misses opposed to 2014 where he tossed 32.38% splitters and watched the swings and missed decrease to only 41 on the pitch. In 2014 he fooled around with a cutter that wasn’t very affective, adding to his arsenal, but still watching the pitches be less affective than 2013. In total in 2013 Mujica delivered 515 splitters while compiling 35 strikeouts on the pitch that year while also inducing a 19.03 whiff rate.

The pitch was also Mujica’s best (minimum 100 pitches thrown) according to batting average against (BAA). Opponents hit a mere .223 against the splitter. Mujica also got opposing batters to swing at the pitch 63.69% of the time in 2013.

Last season, Mujica hurled only 305 splitters, over 200 less than the previous year, resulting in only 18 strikeouts a whiff rate of 13.44%. By throwing less splitters in 2014 Mujica posted 54.43 swing rate.

The thing that stuck out to me about his 2014 campaign is that even though he threw less splitters, it was still his most affective pitch according to BAA (minimum 100 pitches thrown). Over the past two years, Mujica can compare pretty well with Fernando Rodney  of the Seattle Mariners. Both pitchers have ERAs below 3.30, more than 130 games, over 40 saves, over 125 innings pitched, along with 46 earned runs each. Mujica has a walk rate that is extremely better than Rodney’s, Mujica walking 19 over the past two years while Rodney walked 64. Both pitchers also have over 80 strikeouts.

So, as the season gets closer, I would watch for Mujica to throw more splitters during spring training, especially if he wants to regain his old form.

More from BoSox Injection