COMMENTARY | The Boston Red Sox may have a Cy Young candidate after all, but it's not the one everyone expected back in June.
What Koji Uehara has done since becoming the Boston closer is nothing short of remarkable. Since the All-Star break, he has not allowed a single earned run, and his WHIP is a minuscule 0.25. Opponents are hitting just .065 off him.
Though his hat has been thrown into the ring in the late stage of the competition, he's making as good of a push as any. It will be tough to knock out the Detroit Tigers' duo, but Uehara deserves to be involved in the conversation.
At 38 years old, Uehara is putting together one of the best relief seasons ever. His numbers in 2013 have blown Eric Gagne's 2003 Cy Young-winning performance out of the water. He bests him in nearly every category imaginable -- from WHIP to ERA to strikeouts per nine and much more.
Gagne's competition in 2003 for the NL Cy Young is not unlike Uehara's in 2013. Jason Schmidt, the runner-up that year, posted very similar numbers to Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez's current campaign, if not better. Gagne's record-tying saves total was the feather in his cap, similar to Uehara's 34-straight retired batters. A perfect game, plus seven more.
Every month, he keeps getting better. Through September's first week and a half, he's struck out only one fewer batter than all of August. In fact, he's averaging nearly 2 strikeouts per inning this month. A likely unsustainable run, but impressive nonetheless.
The only thing Uehara has going against him is the fact that he began the season as a reliever rather than a closer. The Red Sox trotted out a combination of Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey to less than stellar results. Both struggled mightily, eventually finding themselves on the DL and an early end to their seasons.
With already an uphill battle to climb, the low-saves number might doom his chances.
Still, Uehara continues to shine. He's turned the Red Sox's biggest weakness into their biggest strength. When the ninth inning rolls around and Uehara enters the game, no longer are Sox fans holding their breath.
Though it may have been lost in the shuffle of amazing comebacks and commanding offensive performances, Uehara's dominant season deserves more recognition than it's getting. Whether that results in a Cy Young trophy, or even merely a top five finish in voting, remains to be seen. But if he finishes the season continuing the role he's on, he should be in the conversation.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Koji Uehara
- Cy Young
- Boston Red Sox
- Eric Gagne