The Prize of Surprise: Koji Uehara

*This is the final installment of the Prize of Surprise Series, in which the SDI Staff has outlined their players to watch this upcoming season. We hope you have enjoyed.


When we set out to do this “Prize of Surprise” series here at Shutdowninning.com it didn’t take me long to decide who I wanted as my “prize.” I chose Koji Uehara for many reasons. The first, and most obvious, reason is the guy is a really good pitcher. He has been one of the better relief pitchers in the major leagues the last few years. He has a history of dominating left handed hitters, and that is something Texas needs badly this season.

Now I know Koji’s time in Texas has been less than stellar thus far. That is one of the reasons I chose Koji as my player to watch. Koji’s struggles have been well documented. After showing signs of struggling late in the 2011 season, Koji continued his ineffectiveness in the playoffs. He continued to be plagued by the long ball and was left off the World Series roster.

While it seems Koji’s stuff is still not quite there based on his spring training results, I still hold out hope.  I always preach caution when “analyzing” spring training stats. There are too many variables that could affect the outcome to just look at the numbers in spring training. In this case though, more than the numbers are troubling. Koji has continued to be ineffective getting hitters out this spring, and is especially prone to the homerun. 

Will this trend continue? Is this a mental or a physical problem? These are questions we would all love answers to. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I have any inside knowledge about Koji’s state of mind. And I haven’t seen enough video of Koji to be able to assess if the problem is mechanical. Basically I am saying I have no clue how one of the best relievers in baseball suddenly wasn’t once he changed uniforms. 

But no one has a clue why this is happening to Koji. What Texas does have is one of the best clubhouses in Major League Baseball. They have one of the best pitching coaches in Major League Baseball. If there is any team out there that can help Koji return to that dominant pitcher we saw in 2010 and 2011, Texas might just be that team. 

I still remember the first time Koji pitched for Texas. July 31st against Toronto, Koji pitched a scoreless inning. I remember him coming off the mound with such excitement and enthusiasm. I remember thinking “Now this is a guy who will fit in nicely in Texas.” To date, Koji has not lived up to my expectations. 

It is no secret I am a numbers guy. I don’t possess the mental capacity to be able to quantify and categorize everything that happens on a baseball field. That is why I rely on stats to help my perception and actual reality line up. There is no doubt Koji has been a fabulous pitcher the last 2 seasons. He wasn’t just lucky, or pitching in a large ballpark. He was dominating in what is considered the best offensive division in baseball, the AL East. I am of the opinion that true domination doesn’t disappear because of the name on the front of the jersey.

We know what Koji can be. We know what Koji has been in Texas. Many of the fans have lost all hope in Koji Uehara, and at this point you really can’t blame them. There is still time for Koji to “click” in Texas. He isn’t too far removed from the dominant pitcher with the boyhood exuberance we once saw. Though time is running out, I am going to stand quietly on my side of the dividing line, and hope this guy figures it out.

Lincoln Floyd is a Senior Staff Writer for ShutDownInning.com. He can be reached via email at Lincoln.Floyd@shutdowninning.com or on Twitter @SDILincoln.
Lincoln Floyd

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