On Saturday, Koji Uehara briefly reminded us that he is indeed from this planet. Then, in characteristically swift fashion, he struck out the side, giving us time to reflect on an incredible feat.
With his walk to Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, Uehara issued his first walk in 43 and 2/3 innings. On August 3, 2013 he walked Martin Prado of the Diamondbacks. In between that walk and Saturday’s free pass, Uehara’s ERA was 0.41.
The other statistics from this streak are similarly staggering. Thanks to his dominant splitter, Uehara struck out 55 of the 150 batters he faced during the streak. It’s a rare gift to have a pitch that hitters can’t even manage to lay off even if they know it’s coming with two strikes. Though Mariano Rivera’s cutter, Trevor Hoffman’s changeup, and Brad Lidge’s slider all frustrated hitters for years, Uehara combines a nasty put away pitch and impeccable control.
And while many relievers struggle to hold on runners, not one base runner swiped a base on Uehara during his unfathomable stretch. Uehara is bound to be remembered as one of the most unique, consistent relievers of all time, since this accomplishment is clearly no fluke. In fact, he went about 37 innings without a walk from 2010 to 2011. The streak that just concluded goes down as 4th all time for innings without a walk, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the 39 year-old start another record-breaking span without a walk very soon.
Though he’s only recently come back from missing a week with shoulder soreness, Uehara looks poised to be an elite closer for years to come. With his truly special splitter and historically excellent control, Uehara doesn’t need to rely on velocity, making him the perfect kind of closer to keep baffling hitters and rewriting records well into his 40s.