Uehara Close to Baltimore Return

In a free agent market rife with relief pitching, Koji Uehara was one of the less frequently discussed names. Yet he put together quite an excellent year, despite having it shortened due to injury. Now he’s nearing a deal that will bring him back to Baltimore to help fortify a bullpen that just lost David Hernandez yesterday.

Uehara, who will turn 36 near the start of the season, pitched the 2009 season with the Orioles as a starter. In terms of rate stats his season could have been termed a success:

ERA: 4.05 (113 ERA+)
FIP: 3.56
xFIP: 4.51
tERA: 3.31

The only problem is that his season ended after his start on June 23. He suffered a flexor tendon strain in his right elbow. This came after he missed 19 days in late May to early June due to a hamstring strain. That left him with just 12 starts and 66.2 innings on the season. At the start of spring training the Orioles decided to move him to the bullpen, but those plans were delayed by a month after he strained his hamstring in spring training. His injury woes continued after just six appearances; he missed 40 days with another elbow issue.

After his late-June return, though, Uehara shined. His strikeout rate skyrocketed to 11.25 per nine. He walked fewer batters, 1.02 per nine, than he did in the 2009 season. Here are those same rate stats, in about two-thirds the number of innings:

ERA: 2.86
FIP: 2.40
xFIP: 2.91
tERA: 2.47

It would appear, then, that Uehara found his niche in the bullpen. He also succeeded when he moved to the bullpen for the Yomiuri Giants in 2007. Acting as the team’s closer he recorded 32 saves and posted a 1.74 ERA (~2.02 FIP) in 62 innings — and he walked just four batters in the process. He’ll surely return to that relief role in 2010, perhaps even return to the closer role that he occupied from about mid-August through season’s end.

If Uehara remains healthy he can join Jim Johnson, and Jason Berken as a solid relieve corps. Mike Gonzalez is also a wild card in that mix. The Orioles have been working to even further improve the bullpen, too, as they’ve reportedly offered Kevin Gregg a two-year contract. Gregg might appear nice from a fantasy baseball perspective, a 3.51 ERA and 37 saves in 2010, but he still suffers from horrible control. That can get him into trouble later in games. It’s unknown how interested Gregg is in pitching for the Orioles, since they have two potential closers, Uehara and Gonzalez, in the fold already.

There is no doubt that Uehara presents a risk for the Orioles. In his short MLB tenure he has already missed 209 days, or the equivalent of somewhere around a full season. It is more concerning, too, that his hamstring and elbow injuries both recurred in 2010. To the Orioles, apparently, the upside outweighs the risk. After all, it is not as though losing Uehara for the season will cost the team a chance at contention.




Print This Post



Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


18 Responses to “Uehara Close to Baltimore Return”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. duck says:

    When was this announced? Sources? The Baltimore media says the two sides are close, but this is the only story saying it’s a done deal Koji is back.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Choo says:

    Joe Paw is your source. He’s at the Winter Meetings. Probably just finished a couples massage with Scott Boras and two large Cubans in his hotel room.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Yeah, duck is right. Just confirmed by Orioles beat writer Brittany Ghiroli that this is untrue and that the sides are only close but no deal is completed.

    http://twitter.com/#!/Britt_Ghiroli/status/12295891226464256

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Joe Pawlikowski says:

    Yeah, sorry, meant to change the last line in the first paragraph but forgot to when I finished up. They’re close, but it sounds like it’s going to happen.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Choo says:

    In all seriousness, I was hoping Uehara would travel West or at least sign with an East Coast team that gets regular TV time. His arsenal of forks and curves (corks?) is unique and entertaining as hell to watch.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. phoenix2042 says:

    what is tERA? i have wondered this for a while, but was unable to find an explanation of it.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Joe Pawlikowski says:

      It’s basically the same as this, but with a few substitutions in the data sources:

      http://statcorner.com/tRAabout.html

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • phoenix2042 says:

        ah ok, i thought it was something involving balls in play as well. this seems like it would be more accurate than FIP or xFIP because it takes into account league average (big sample size) weighted run and out values on balls in play. wouldn’t this be more accurate to use for WAR?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Steve says:

    With the required Fangraphs snark around the O’s, they must not think much of the fact that the team was the best in the division while playing it the last two months of the season.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • John says:

      Oh man. Those first four months, though. GOD.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • John says:

      Do you think those last two months are the real Orioles? In your opinion, do you think they have a wild card shot?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • phoenix2042 says:

        well a healthy yankees and healthy red sox kind of has the division and wild card locked up dont you think? but if the red sox are rocked by injuries like last year or the yankees finally show their age, then maybe the Os do have a chance, but it would take every one of their young players playing up to or over their potential.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Steve says:

        I think they can be in the mix. The rotation could be good – certainly better than New York’s. They have some good bullpen arms. The offense was horrific last year, especially the corner infield and SS. Those are being upgraded. Certainly they need Wieters, Markakis, and Jones to take huge steps.

        I guess my point is that the O’s are probably closer to the solid, pitching oriented team they were under Showalter than the complete mess that was April-July. Most likely a 85 win potential.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Elliott says:

    The Reds and Yanks have it rapped up….seriously? Yeah they may be ahead. But Tampa Bay…what about them and there young nucleus of players. Plus Toronto has a potent lineup, anything can happen.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • melvin emmanuel says:

      Fangraphs, the site where “Anything can happen.” I love it, should be the new tagline. Elliott, I think we all know randomness can happen, but wouldn’t you agree that it’s unlikely, or even more to the point, extremely unlikely that Balt or Tor will surpass the Sox/Yanks in the standings? (I didn’t include Tampa because I think they’re in the mix.)

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • melvin emmanuel says:

        Oh ya, I love Uehara, not just from a statistical perspective but as a fan of pitching. He gets it done in a way that makes it enjoyable to watch.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>