In 1990, Dennis Eckersley had a line of 0.61 ERA/.616 WHIP/ with 8.96 K/9 and 48 saves — which is widely considered to be the best season a closer has ever had. In 2013, 38-year-old Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, who came into the season behind Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller, and Junichi Tazawa on the bullpen depth chart, might be having a better season than Eckersley’s. Here’s his line: 1.09 ERA/.570 WHIP/ with 12.23 K/9 and 21 saves. Impressive as hell. Let’s explore what those numbers entail.
Crazy: He retired 37 consecutive batters this season, which was four short of Bobby Jenks record.
Crazier: He’s surrendered — get this — two earned runs since June 10th.
Craziest: He’s fallen behind in the count 11 times this season in 82.1 innings pitched.
If you consider the fact that he became the closer almost halfway through the season (which is why he only has 21 saves), Uehara is having one of the best seasons a 9th inning guy has ever had. Just last night, he came in to a 4-3 game in the 8th (with one out), and finished off the Detroit Tigers in 27 pitches for the save. If the Red Sox end up winning this series — of which every game has been decided by one run thus far — it will be because they have their own sandman.
According to Subjective Baseball Blog, these are the other top seasons closers have had before 2010. Where would you put Uehara on this list?
Koji Uehara 21 SV/1.09 ERA/.570 WHIP
2. Eric Gagne, 2003 (LAD): 55 SV/1.20 ERA/.694 WHIP
3. Jonathan Papelbon, 2006 (BOS): 35 SV/0.92 ERA/.778 WHIP
4. Rich Gossage, 1981 (NYY): 20 SV/0.77 ERA/.779 WHIP
5. Mariano Rivera, 2008 (NYY): 39 SV/1.40 ERA/.670 WHIP
6. John Smoltz, 2003 (ATL): 45 SV/1.12 ERA/.874 WHIP
7. J.J. Putz, 2007 (SEA): 40 SV/1.38 ERA/.702 WHIP
8. Takashi Saito, 2007 (LAD): 39 SV/1.40 ERA/.718 WHIP
9. Billy Wagner, 1999 (HOU): 39 SV/1.57 ERA/.782 WHIP
10. Rollie Fingers, 1981 (MIL): 28 SV/1.04 ERA/.872 WHIP