Top 5: Closers in 2015 AL East
Jul 31, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara (19) pitches during the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
3) Koji Uehara – Boston Red Sox
ERA 2.23, FIP 2.44, WAR 1.3, K/9 10.49, SV 25, SVO 27, BABIP .248
It Factor: Koji Time
Koji is a closer’s closer, he thrives on the moment and is almost inordinately better in it than not. Indeed, his stat line truly does a disservice to his overall performance solely as a closer this year as it lumps together the many mediocre outings he had in non-save situations. Such situations, quite unlikely the problems faced by Brad Boxberger, were thrust on Koji to keep him sharp (due to large swathes of time when the Red Sox found themselves unable to get into any save situations).
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Uehara in 2013 was a revelation. A dominating, lights out closer that operated on a historic level. Between July 9 and September 17 of that year, Koji retired 37 consecutive hitters, which is an all-time record in Boston. His WHIP on the year of 0.57 was the best in history of any pitcher going over 50 innings. And thus Koji Time was born.
While he struggled in 2014, the return of Koji to form in 2015 saw a return in Koji Time and at the ripe old age of 40 he was as automatic as ever. Between June 24 and August 7, Uehara gave up a single run and a mere 6 hits in 16.2 innings of work.His ERA for July was 0.93 and, for August, 0. Good night.
Unfortunately that was it for Uehara’s year. An unfortunate, and how many times did we see this in Boston in 2015, accident occurred with the last out on August 7. Uehara took a splitter back at him on his right hand, ending his season and, perhaps with little coincidence, the Red Sox’ as well.
Even so, there’s so much going for Uehara that it’s hard to say he won’t be around in at least some capacity as a reliever in 2016. Admittedly it helps that the Boston bullpen’s idea of a no-hitter is managing not to hit the batter. His fastball speed may struggle to break 90 MPH, but he’s possibly one of the few for which that doesn’t even really matter. His weapon of choice, the splitter, is one of the nastiest in the business and has the wonderful side effect of producing some awkward, hulking swings and misses. The fastball complements it by sitting high on a hitter expecting the split, making them look equally, if not more so, foolish.
Koji is probably the most fun member on the team, whether it be his ridiculous walk up music, his jumping high fives on his clearly vertically superior teammates or his hilarious interview comments. Everybody loves him. He’s a closer, a teammate and a Red Sox legend. He may no longer be the best in the business, but he’s still plenty good and at 41 you can expect his star to shine over Boston once more.
Next: 2 - Zach Britton