Aug 7, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcherKoji Uehara
(19) makes a throw to first after get struck by a ball hit by Detroit Tigers second basemanIan Kinsler
(not pictured) in the ninth inning at Comerica Park. The Red Sox won 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Red Sox closer situation simply disintegrated when Koji Uehara went down to a broken bone. Koji had a very respectable season with 25 saves in 27 opportunities and batter’s hitting just .188. A BB/9 of 2.0 and a K/9 of 10.5 shows that Koji can get the important punch out and not go into walk mode as we have witnessed with his replacements.
The argument against Koji apparently boils down to his age – Koji is a baseball senior citizen and will be 41-years-old next season. Uehara also has a checkered injury history and caution must be applied as not to overwork his ancient arm. With another season on his contract the closer role is his. But what about the rest?
The primary set-up position is occupied by Junichi Tazawa (2-7, 4.14) with a high level of competency – at least until he gets arm weary – and apparently that is like flu season or an annual event. Quite possibly a more judicious use of Taz would mitigate some of the late season meltdowns. But Tazawa is a keeper. He’s demonstrated the ability to be productive and, no doubt, will continue to do so with a warning label about excessive use. Of note: On July 31st his ERA was 2.60.
Robbie Ross (0-2, 3.86) is another former Ranger of some value. Ross certainly did not provide replacement value for departed Andrew Miller, but Ross was serviceable and even assumed the closer role with six saves. As the season moved forward Ross’ fastball also ticked upwards. Lefties hit .224 against Ross and right-handers hit .272. Ross showed enough down the stretch to warrant a return.
Matt Barnes (3-4, 5.44) is either a short reliever, starter, long reliever or whatever else can be dreamed up by baseball ops….or is it oops? Barnes, a former first round pick, has a cannon arm and incredible inconsistency, but a fastball velocity average of 94.7 is difficult to give up on.