Friday, May 15, 2009

Koji Uehara: The Best Free Agent Signing?

When people discuss the best 2008 free agent signing, the name Koji Uehara is usually never mentioned in the conversation. And why should he be? Uehara is playing on one of the worst teams in the American League and is a relative unknown considering that this is his first season in the MLB.

But instead of focusing solely on the Dodgers signing Orlando Hudson, Adam Dunn signing with the Nationals, or Bobby Abreu signing with the Angels; we need to consider just how good of a signing Uehara has been thus far for the Orioles.

The Orioles signed Uehara to a 2 year/$10 million dollar contract, hoping that he would be able to give the Orioles some quality innings. Outside of Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles starting rotation was an absolute mess entering the season and Uehara was instantly penciled in as the Orioles #2 starter.

And so far this season, Uehara has been both consistent and very good for the Orioles. In 6 of his 7 starts this season, Uehara has given up 3 runs or less and has a very impressive WHIP of 1.13.

Also, Uehara's control has been absolutely fantastic so far this season. Take a look at some of these tidbits:

-only walked 7 hitters this season
-in 3 starts, Uehara has walked 0 batters
-in 3 starts this season, Uehara has only walked 1 batter

Those are some masterful control numbers, especially for a "rookie." Anyone who has watched Uehara pitch this season knows just how good his control is and how much fun he is to watch.

Furthermore, Uehara's ERA stands at 4.01, which would be much lower if not for a poor second start against the Rangers where Uehara surrendered 7 ER in 5 IP. Keep in mind that Uehara has already faced the Yankees twice, the Rangers twice, the Rays, and the Red Sox. Those are some of the best offenses in baseball and for the most part, Uehara has held his own and gone above and beyond.

It's far too early for anyone to be declared as the best free agent signing. But at the same time, Uehara's name belongs in the conversation, or at least a mention. Uehara has been the Orioles best pitcher so far and if he keeps up this level of performance, he probably will become the Orioles ace. While that might not be saying much considering how poor their starting rotation is, the fact that the Orioles were able to sign a quality starting pitcher and a very cheap rate should earn GM Andy McPhail a world of praise.

For $10 million bucks, McPhail might have found the Orioles a front end starter, a future building block, and a guy who can give the Orioles plenty of quality innings. For that price, I'm sure Mets GM Omar Minaya, Indians GM Mark Shapiro, White Sox GM Kenny Williams, and many others and kicking themselves for not going after Uehara this offseason.

I expect big things from Uehara in the upcoming months considering how good he has been against some of the best offenses in baseball. Even though the Orioles have no chance at making the playoffs, Uehara's name needs to be in the discussion as the best free agent signing...until he proves otherwise.


Zach Sanders said...

He has been a great signing. He seems to have to tools to continue, with his FIP at 4.03 showing he hasn't been lucky or unlucky for the most part.

Also, FanGraphs has him worth $4.1 million already this year.

Steve Shoup said...

I'm an O's fan and I have trouble thinking he's a front end starter but I think he was a great signing none the less. And I agree completely a few GMs already wish they could go back in time right now.

Anonymous said...

Good Article, he's been much better than his counterpart in Atlanta, Kawakami who was more highly touted.

Jorge Says No! said...

Considering that Uehara was a relief pitcher in Japan before this season, I would say that his start in the majors has been awfully impressive.

Anonymous said...

Go back in time? Ugh man this is why I hate blogs.

Had had similar numbers with more control than Kei Igawa. The bigger name was the Kamasaki guy on Atlanta.

I said he would be a durable #4 starter but seems to be pitching a little better than that.

But to say now that no one knew is a bunch of bul.lshit

Jorge Says No! said...

anon: Of course no one knew that he was going to be this could they?

And no, I don't plan to go back in time. The whole idea of my statement was that no one really anticipated that he was going to be this good...but since he has performed this well so far, GMs are kicking themselves for not making a stronger push this offseason