Friday, February 14, 2014

Can Koji Uehara Repeat His Amazing 2013?

(AP Photo)
On April 3rd, Koji Uehara will turn 39 years old. It's reasonable to speculate whether he can duplicate his astounding 2013 season. Over his five MLB seasons he has been an above-average reliever who occasionally delivers excellent numbers (e.g., in 2011 he posted a 1.74 ERA for the Orioles). But nothing could have prepared opponents for the other-worldly year he had for Boston in their World Championship run. Initially third or fourth in line for the closer role, Uehara hurled 74.1 innings, giving up just 33 hits on the way to a 1.09 ERA. He saved 21 games and struck out 101 batters. He actually finished 7th in Cy Young voting and 19th in the AL MVP race. All he did in the World Series was put up a 0.00 ERA in 4.2 innings—and was on the mound to close out Ring #8 at Fenway. Can he do it again as he approaches 40? History would suggest that he can. His only really bad year (with enough innings pitched) was his first in the US—throwing 66.2 innings and posting a 4.05 ERA. It's the only season that he gave up more hits than innings pitched. But, as he became acclimated to life in the bigs, he was pretty consistent. A big part of his success is his deceptive delivery and stuff—he certainly never blew any hitters away. So there's no reason to believe that hitters will suddenly figure him out. He may not be as dominant as in 2013—but he's likely to still be very good.