When you look at the overall team and individual player stats for the 2013 Red Sox season, its pretty amazing that nothing jumps out at you as particularly spectacular. You’d think that a team that went from 69 victories and last place during the 2012 season to 97 wins, a Division crown and a World Championship a year later would have a couple of hitters in their starting lineup who had spectacular seasons or at least one 20-game winner in their rotation. Not the 2013 Red Sox. They truly had a team that won as a team, with everybody doing a good enough job to more often then not, outscore the competition. There’s no doubt that getting rid of Bobby Valentine’s toxic “divide and conquer” management style and replacing it with the much more harmonizing leadership of John Farrell, was a huge positive. But face it, with David Ortiz leading the team with just 103 RBIs and Jon Lester the only Red Sox starter to win as many as 15 games, its really difficult to point to one player who was indispensable….well not that difficult.
The Red Sox do not win those rings in 2013 without Koji Uehara. When they signed him just before Christmas in 2012, all Boston GM Ben Cherington was hoping was that this right-hander from Osaka, Japan would be a good setup man for whoever turned out to be the team’s closer in 2013. Two weeks later, Cherington acquired Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, two potential candidates for that closing role in separate trades. Injuries ended both their seasons before the All Star break and suddenly, by process of elimination, Uehara took their place. He had some limited closing experience with the Orioles during his second big league season in 2010. Before that, he had spent a decade as a starter in his native Japan.
All he did was go 4-1 with 21 saves and an amazing 1.09 ERA. He became the first big league pitcher in history to strike out more than 100 batters while giving up fewer than 10 walks. He also compiled a streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings and at one point, retired 34 batters in a row. He was the MVP of the ALCS, appearing in five games, saving three and winning another and he then saved two of Boston’s World Series’ victories over the Cards. It was indeed an incredible stretch by a veteran pitcher who turns 38-years-old today.