Thursday, May 31, 2007

If you're waiting for updates on Koji Uehara's first start of 2007.....

you're going to have to keep on waiting. It appears as though the Giants have taken a liking to Uehara as a closer in the mold of John Smoltz. The man who is probably their best pitcher has skillfully entered the role of closer and now enters ballgames, close and late, to the sound of tremendous cheers. I don't know if Yomiuri will be able to continue using Uehara in this manner if their starting pitching falters, but to this point they are sitting pretty atop the Central League with the best record in the sport. Their frontline starters, including the young left hander Kaneto, have continued to impress and the team has elected to bolster a shaky pen by adding their best pitcher into a high leverage role. This reminds me a bit of the Phillies recent move to Brett Myers as a Tom Gordon replacement, despite posting a 137 ERA+ over recent times.

Uehara's current pitching line on the year is:

11 games
11.2 IP
0-1 record
5 saves
8 hits
2 HRs allowed
1 BB
12 K

The Ratios

3.86 ERA
.771 WHIP
12.00 K/BB
9.26 K/9
.186 BAA
.222 OBA
6.17 H/9
7.71 baserunners/9

So far his resume is impressive as the Giants closer. I wonder to myself each time he enters a game in relief what his conversion means to his prospects for a big MLB payday next season. As a premier starting pitcher, you have to figure that someone will pay Uehara something in the neighborhood of Igawa money. As a closer, does his value suddenly drop whether he ends up reclaiming a starting role for a Major League club? Has his value taken a hit? Would a Major League player, in what figures to be his last chance at a big payday, accept a move like this? Keep watching for more. I'll try to update Uehara Watch at least once a week from now on, whether it's for a handful of relief appearances or for a start. Any news related to Uehara's 2007 season and beyond will appear here as well. Keep comin' back!

Monday, May 14, 2007

What a relief!

So far this season, as I reported earlier, Koji Uehara has been pitching exclusively out of the bullpen. His hamstring rehab essentially consists of throwing on the side, and taking over late inning situations for the Giants. It's been a goo strategy that has helped the Yomiuri club finish off a number of wins on their way to the best record in the Central. Before the season started, it was hard to imagine that the Giants would be in 1st place at this point in the year, largely because they had a number of giant question marks in their rotation, not the least of which was the health of their ace.

Uehara has been lights out in the pen, after surrendering a run and a few hits in his debut. To date, his pitching line on the season is:

6 games
6 IP
21 batters faced
75 pitches
3 hits
no walks
5 strikeouts
1.50 ERA
0.500 WHIP
5.00 K/BB
7.50 K/9
3 saves

It will be good to see Uehara get his first start sometime soon, but in the meantime it's good to see that he's himself. Not a walk on the season to date. I'll keep my eyes peeled for his starting debut and you'll read about it all here soon enough.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

9th Inning Koji.

Apparently, the Giants are going to work Uehara back into the rotation by pitching him one inning at a time. For the second consecutive day the man of the hour entered a game more or less decided to get in a little work. Today, Uehara induced pinch hitter Hidenori to ground out to short, followed by leadoff man Ibata's ground out to third, and finally Araki duplicated the feat by weakly dribbling a grounder to Ogasawara at the hot corner for the final out of the game.

Uehara was more than economical, sitting down the Dragons 1-2-3 on 7 pitches. It's good to see him back on the mound finally, and I expect you'll see more quality work the rest of the way. Since there's not much to write about the latest one inning audition, I'll give you the breakdown on each of those batters.

Hidenori (.273/.250/.273 - 12 plate appearances)
1st pitch: 88mph fastball down the middle (out G6-3)

Ibata (.299/.380/.430 - 123 plate appearances)
1st pitch: 80mph cutter low and inside (ball one)
2nd pitch: 88mph fastball in (foul)
3rd pitch: 86mph shuuto away (out G5-3)

Araki (.243/.270/.279 - 119 plate appearances)
1st pitch: 75mph forkball low (ball one)
2nd pitch: 80mph forkball high (strike one)
3rd pitch: 81mph cutter in (out G5-3)

None of the speeds will knock your socks off, but that's Uehara. He puts pitches in spots you can't hit. I expect to see him get a few more innings like this before taking the mound for a start, but the Giants will probably fool me again by starting him tomorrow. Who knows? I'll be there when he pitches though. Stay tuned!