Throughout the entire 2013 regular and postseason, much attention has gone to the Boston Red Sox‘ group of players who have grown massive beards and hit massive home runs. This group has included Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, who undoubtedly have had a huge impact on the Red Sox going 97-65 during the regular season and leading the ALCS 3-2 over the Detroit Tigers.
But lost in this big group of bearded bombers has been the contributions of closer Koji Uehara, who has arguably been the Red Sox’s most important player in 2013.
During the regular season, Uehara appeared in 71 games, throwing 74 .1 innings, saving 21 games, holding 13 more and compiling a 0.57 WHIP, 1.09 ERA and 101 strikeouts. This regular season was arguably the greatest single season ever by a relief pitcher in MLB history — his WHIP was the best ever — and provided a crucial level of stability to the Red Sox dugout.
Every time they took a lead into the final innings of the game, it was an almost automatic win, which in turn left the team’s lineup with the comforting knowledge that any late lead would be an automatic win.
This level of success was surely remarkable, but did not mean anything when it came to postseason play. After all, Uehara had some postseason demons — he had allowed five runs in 2.1 innings prior to the 2013 postseason — and without continued success, the Red Sox would surely crumble.
Well any demons have surely been exercised in 2013, as Uehara has appeared in seven games, pitching eight innings, compiling a 0.50 WHIP, 1.13 ERA and four saves. Again, he has been the rock in the back for the Red Sox, proving that even that he can be a playoff force even without overpowering stuff.
For those that fall into the category of overlooking Uehara, shame on you. Simply put, Uehara has been the best closer in all of baseball and also the most underrated, in the process becoming the most important player on the Boston Red Sox as they sit one game away from going to the World Series.