EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


October 3, 2013

The Red Sox' Rivera

Uehara capable of a Mariano-like postseason

BOSTON — Koji Uehara put together a Mariano Rivera-like regular season.

The 38-year-old Japanese right-hander was a dominant closer with a 1.09 ERA in 74.1 innings.

Uehara hasn’t surprised old teammate, Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, who led the American League in saves the last two years.

Johnson was with Uehara in Baltimore when Uehara left Japan in 2009.

“He’s always had good stuff,” Johnson said. “They (the Orioles) tried to make him a starter here. And it was a matter of just health and stuff. I think a lot of that was an adjustment period for him — just getting used to how the workload is here. And then he pitched very effectively for us.

“He’s a great pitcher. He closed a little bit for us (in 2010). He was just as good then. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the better pitchers in the game. Obviously, his numbers back it up.”

Can he put together a Mariano Rivera-like postseason?

The Red Sox play Game 1 of their American League Division Series tomorrow at 3:07 p.m. at Fenway Park.

Rivera was not only the best closer in major league history but also the best postseason closer ever with a 0.70 ERA and 0.76 WHIP. He also responded when asked to record saves of more than three outs. Rivera hurled 141.0 innings in 96 postseason appearances. That’s an average of a little more than four outs per game.

Uehara’s success is vital for Boston’s postseason survival. A fascinating 2006 study by sabermetricians Nate Silver, the legendary statistician, and Dayn Perry identified closer performance, pitcher strikeout rate and defense as the top three variables for postseason success.

The Red Sox have a good defense, committing the fifth fewest errors in the AL. They have several strikeout pitchers, recording franchise records in strikeouts (1,294) and strikes per nine innings (8.0).

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