Koji Uehara: the Unsung Hero of Spring Training

Koji Uehara

When talking about all of the additions that the Red Sox made over the off-season  you rarely hear a mention of Koji Uehara on that list.

You’ve got your Mike Napoli’s, your Stephen Drew’s, Joel Hanrahan’s and Ryan Dempster’s, but Uehara just might prove to be a major X-factor for the Red Sox this season. It was a very low-key move, triggered by general manager Ben Cherington, which could pay major dividends for Boston.

The Red Sox bullpen, if healthy, could end up being the most effective bullpen in all of baseball. With several names camped out in Fenway’s right field bullpen with closing experience, Uehara trumped all of them this spring. The right-hander logged 9.2 innings over 10 appearances without yielding a run, while punching out 12 batters and allowing just two walks.

Bill James has Uehara appearing in 40 games for Boston in 2013, and predicts a 2.25 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 49 innings, and just six walks. If Uehara comes even remotely close to James’ predictions, the Red Sox may have found their secret weapon.

Did the Red Sox make the right call on Daniel Bard?

Daniel Bard

The bizarre saga of Daniel Bard continues.

Last season, there was an outcry to insert the right-hander into the closer’s role when Alfredo Aceves couldn’t even close a door, never mind a game. Now, we find that at the start of the 2013 campaign, Bard will begin his season even lower than where he was sent last season.

On one hand, I understand why the Red Sox want to demote Bard all the way down the Double-A. Bard was a disaster in his early minor league days in the Red Sox organization, and was corrected by current Sea Dogs pitching coach, Bob Kipper. The two will be reunited, as Bard was demoted to Boston’s Double-A affiliate just a few days before the start of the season.

On the other hand, we all know how much of a headcase Bard can be. After his demotion to Triple-A last year, the reliever continued his downward spiral in the minor leagues. I see what the Red Sox are trying to do by hooking him back up with Kipper, but is another demotion what Bard needs right now? By all accounts, he was touching 96 on the gun during spring training. Could the Red Sox have afforded to keep him on the Opening Day roster as a confidence-booster for Bard?

It’s a moot point now, but time will tell whether or not John Farrell and the Red Sox made the right call on Bard to open the 2013 season.

Red Sox need to offset Jonny Gomes

Jonny Gomes

Red Sox fans are going to love Jonny Gomes; there’s absolutely no question about that.

He says all the right things, has a passion for the game, hits home runs, and never takes off his jersey at the end of the game unless it has dirt on it. He’s your stereotypical Boston fan favorite. However, there’s a flaw in Gomes’ game in that he can’t hit right-handed pitching, which is, you know, kind of important in this league.

For his career, Gomes is a .223/.307/.425 hitter against righties, with a .284/.382/.512 line against lefties. The numbers, overall, are pretty drastic. But his overall career numbers weren’t as drastic as the splits from last season with the Oakland A’s when Gomes tuned up left-handed pitching to a .299/.413/.461 line, while struggling mightily against right-handed pitching, hitting .209/.324/.391 for the year.

Gomes’ .715 OPS against right-handed pitching ranked 203rd in the MLB among batters with at least 100 plate appearances. However, when facing off against lefties, Gomes’ .974 OPS was 11th of 134 players in the MLB with at least 150 plate appearances.

To put things in perspective, Gomes hit lefties better than American League MVP Miguel Cabrera, runner-up Mike Trout, and let’s even throw Albert Pujols’ name in there for good measure. Gomes was better than all of them. But his batting average against right-handed pitching in 2012 ranked 350 out of 398 players with at least 100 plate appearances, which means that 88% of the entire MLB was better than Gomes against right-handed pitching.

The Red Sox need to find an outfielder who can hit right-handed pitching, because the numbers speak for themselves. When there’s a lefty on the mound, Gomes is your man. But for the majority of the time when there isn’t, the Red Sox need to have an alternative option on the bench to hit right-handed pitching.