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4/3/1975 (41 y, 10 m, 26 d)
$6M / 1 Years (2017)
Uehara agreed to terms on a one-year, $6 million contract with the Cubs on Wednesday, ESPN.com's Jesse Rogers reports. (12/14/2016)
Cubs Remake Risky Bullpen by Adding More Risk
Craig Edwards (FanGraphs)
The Sleeper and the Bust Episode: 413 – Casting As»
Paul Sporer (RotoGraphs)
The Sleeper and the Bust Episode: 367 – Homers & P»
Paul Sporer (RotoGraphs)
Koji Uehara's Extreme Splitter Usage
David Laurila (FanGraphs)
Uehara Outdoes Crowd's Expecations, Signs for Two »
Carson Cistulli (FanGraphs)
(Click Year to Expand /
Year in Review:
After spending 10 years with the Yomirui Giants in Japan, Uehara decided he wanted to play in the Major Leagues and signed a two-year deal with the Orioles. He had two separate DL stints in his rookie year. First, he hit the 15-day DL in May with a hamstring strain. After returning for a couple of weeks, Uehara went on the 60-day DL with a strained flexor tendon in his right elbow, and did not return to pitch again in 2009. In 66.2 innings, Uehara struck out 48 batters, walking only 12. He ended his season with two wins, a 4.05 ERA, and a 1.25 WHIP.
The Year Ahead:
A low ground-ball rate is not a promising sign, and it will need to rise if he wants to lower his home-run rate. Like most Japanese pitchers, Uehara throws a splitter as his primary offspeed pitch, using it almost as much as his regular fastball. Hitters had troubles with his splitter, and it ended up being his best pitch. It appears that Uehara will be healthy heading into 2010 and will likely be used out of the bullpen. He could even take over the closer’s role in Baltimore. If he is the closer, his value skyrockets, as he could be in line for a 30-save season with a solid strikeout rate. Monitor his situation carefully before drafting him. (Zach Sanders)
Uehara was known for at least two things in Japan: phenomenal command and a tendency for injuries. After demonstrating plenty of the latter in his first year or so with Baltimore, he showed some of the former in 2010. Working as a full-time reliever, Uehara struck out 55 while walking only five in 44 innings of work. Amazingly, as R.J. Anderson pointed out, this 11:1 K:BB ratio was only good for third among MLB relievers in 2010, with Edward Mujica and fellow former-NPB-er Rafael Betancourt edging him out. Perhaps unlike Mujica and Betancourt, however, Uehara has a decent chance of approaching a double-digit K:BB ratio in 2011. His 2010 performance was not an aberration in context with his career in Japan. In 10 NPB seasons, Uehara had a career 6.68:1 K:BB ratio, but what jumps out is the 66:4 mark he posted in 62 innings in 2007, his only season as a full-time reliever. Uehara is done as a starter, but should chip in 50-60 innings of work with outstanding command and an accordingly sound WHIP. There will be some risk with him as he's fly-ball prone and around the plate so much, but he's a good bet to rack a few saves, either as a full-time closer or a solid plan B. (Patrick Newman)
The Quick Opinion:
Uehara applies a lengthy track record of NPB command to Baltimore bullpen 2010; look for more of the same in 2011.
Always homer prone due to extreme fly ball tendencies (just 29.3% grounders in his MLB career), Uehara was traded to Texas at the deadline and promptly served up eight homers in 19.1 IP with the Rangers (including playoffs). He did continue to strike batters out (career 9.63 strikeouts per nine) and keep his WHIP down (0.98 career) thanks to his allergy to ball four (career 1.33 walks per nine), but the fly balls and homers will continue to be a very real problem as long as The Ballpark In Arlington is his home base. Uehara, 37 in April, is still a safe bet for strikeouts, WHIP, and holds next year, but expect his ERA to move out of sub-3.00 territory. With Joe Nathan, Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando, and possibly even Neftali Feliz (if starting doesn't work) in the bullpen, his shot at save chances is almost nil. (Mike Axisa)
The Quick Opinion:
Uehara's fly ball and homer problems turned into outright disaster following his trade to Texas, but he's still a solid bet for holds, strikeouts, and a low WHIP in 2012. Just don't expect another sub-3.00 ERA.
After trading for closer Andrew Bailey last offseason, and closer Joel Hanrahan this offseason it's unlikely that free agent acquisition Koji Uehara will be seeing any saves in Boston -- but he might just be their best reliever. Seriously. Since becoming a full-time reliever in 2010 Uehara, has thrown 145 innings with a 2.36 ERA, 0.772 WHIP and 183 strikeouts against just 17 walks for a 10.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Yes, a 10.76 K/BB since 2010, which is the best in baseball. For the sake of comparison Rafael Betancourt is second with 7.82 K/BB. In 2012, Uehara's K/BB was 14.33, which unsurprisingly led the league. And, if you are opposed to K/BB and prefer strikeout minus walk rate, you'll be happy to know that Uehara still ranked third in baseball in 2012 behind only Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. He doesn't throw hard, only hitting the upper 80s, but he gets plenty of strikeouts, swings and misses (18.9 swinging strike rate in 2012) and refuses to walk a soul. When you add it all up, although Uehara is 37 and only received a one-year deal worth $4.25 million, he has to be considered one of the best, or at least least-appreciated relievers in the game. Uehara likely won't receive many saves for the Red Sox or your fantasy team, but if you're looking for a cheap option to help your ratios and strikeout totals, there might not be a better bet than this man. (
The Quick Opinion:
Koji Uehara has gone unnoticed as one of the better relievers in baseball. Let's see if pitching in Boston changes that.
In what may have been one of the steals of last offseason, the Red Sox quietly signed setup man Koji Uehara to a $4.25 million contract. Pushed into the closer role through the injury ineffectiveness of Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Junichi Tazawa, Uehara lit the relief world on fire, posting an insane 1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, and 101 whiffs in just over 74 innings. While some guys post those numbers thanks to some "lucky" peripherals, Uehara wasn't one of them. His 3% walk rate continued to be among the league's best and he even bumped his strikeout rate a bit (38% versus a 34% average in 2011-2012). His 1.36 SIERA bested all qualified major league relievers. Not too shabby. Some may pause at his below-average 88-90 mph fastball, but he posted 16-18% swinging strike rates in relief and a huge part of that was 25+% swSTR% on his splitter. He may not light up the gun, but apparently his opponents agree he's tough to beat. Uehara's age might be the only reason he sits a half tier behind Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, but if you are one of those people that like to lock up relievers earlier, Uehara is as good of a choice as any to be elite again this season. (
The Quick Opinion:
Uehara is another year older but showed no signs of slowing down in 2014. Even at 39, it's not unreasonable to put him among the top six closers.
Entering his age 39 season as a bonafide closer for the first time in his career, Koji Uehara's body of work from 2014 looks remarkably similar to the elite marks he put up in 2013. His strikeout rate fell a few points, but he managed to shave a hair off his already ridiculous 3% walk rate. His swinging strike percentages actually climbed, too. Even though he lost a little over a mph on his already-sub-90-mph fastball, his bread-and-butter splitter could still carry the load. Cracks began to appear in the foundation late in the year, however. His second half FIP was a less sexy 3.86, driven in large part by a jump to nearly two homers per nine innings. While some of this may have just been unfortunate luck, Boston felt the struggles were real enough to "relieve" him from his closer duties late in the year once they exited the playoff hunt. The Red Sox resigned Uehara to a two-year deal, and he'll almost certainly return as their main ninth inning man. There is still reason to draft Uehara among the top 15 or so closers, but the potential of his late season regression sticking around needs to be baked into his projections. He seems like a prime candidate to be overdrafted on name value and the whole of his 2014 numbers. (Colin Zarzycki)
The Quick Opinion:
For the first time in his career, Koji Uehara headed into a season as a full-time closer. The 2014 version was a reasonable facsimile of 2013's fantasy breakout star, although late season gopheritis tainted what looked to be a top-five reliever season. Now headed into his age 40 season, Uehara doesn't have any overt warning lights. However, savvy owners need to factor in the potential for a decline, meaning he should come off the board later than he did last year.
With an age cliff looming, Koji Uehara began 2015 looking like the guy that was one of the better closers in baseball in 2013 and 2014. A 2.45 ERA and 2.33 FIP before the All Star break was just what fantasy owners were looking for. The second half wasn't quite as rosy -- Uehara seemed to lack his pinpoint control (10%) and didn't quite seem like himself before he was drilled by a comebacker in August, fracturing his wrist and ending his season. It may have been for the best, as Boston was going nowhere fast and Uehara will be 41 in April of 2016. With Craig Kimbrel picked up from San Diego, the Japanese import will slide into a setup role for the first time in a few years, torpedoing his status as a top 10 relief option. Those who snag Kimbrel may be inclined to handcuff him with Uehara, but the elder's velocity has now declined by about a mile per hour each of the past two seasons. While it hasn't quite manifested itself in swinging strike rates (no doubt due to Uehara's reliance on the splitter), Father Time will eventually catch up, making him a shaky speculative option in a Boston pen with a few other younger backup options in Carson Smith and Junichi Tazawa. Don't overpay. (
The Quick Opinion:
Some hints of decline may be starting to appear for Koji Uehara, who is now entering his age 41 season. Now sliding into a setup role behind Craig Kimbrel, he's tumbled down the reliever draft rankings and doesn't seem to be a particular attractive handcuff option given his age. He certainly may defy the odds for another season, but it becomes less likely with each passing year.
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Updated: Wednesday, March 1, 2017 3:38 AM ET
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