Bullpen Report: Is Uehara a top-5 closer? 

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
12:19
PM ET
One could argue that no relief pitcher is playing a larger role in the pennant races these days than Boston Red Sox right-hander Koji Uehara. The Red Sox scored off the great Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning late Thursday night -- his sixth blown save -- then scored again off unhappy Joba Chamberlain in the 10th inning to give the dominant Uehara a save opportunity, which he, of course, handled seamlessly. The guy not only hasn't allowed a run since July 6 -- that's a 26-inning scoreless streak -- but in his 21 innings since July 19, he has permitted five hits and one walk. He has allowed only one baserunner over his past 10 outings. That's incredible.

I argue this pretty much every time analysts, some of whom played in the majors, question whether a terrific setup reliever like Uehara can handle closing better than say, Kevin Gregg: Just look at Uehara's statistics. See anything wrong there? Uehara struck out two of the Yankees he faced Thursday and now boasts a ridiculous 0.27 ERA as the team's closer, and a 1.14 ERA and 0.60 WHIP overall, with a monster strikeout rate. And all this at 38 years old. He's owned in all leagues, but it's fair to ask whether he's a top-five fantasy closing option for 2014. After all, we have the renowned big three of Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman, and no obvious guy after that for fantasy owners to covet with Rivera playing golf next season -- though manager Joe Girardi wants him back -- and Jonathan Papelbon perhaps coming off winter ball because he was so underutilized this season.


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