Will Uehara get saves with Rangers?
If the Texas Rangers want their best relief pitcher closing games the final two months of the season, based on current statistics it sure wouldn't be Neftali Feliz. Instead, it would be right-hander Koji Uehara, acquired Saturday from the Baltimore Orioles for the relatively low price of strikeout slugger Chris Davis and ordinary starting pitcher Tommy Hunter. Yes, Uehara is having the better season, and quite easily in fact.
Of course, while we still await a final destination for San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell, with the Rangers often mentioned as well, I'd be pretty surprised if Rangers manager Ron Washington chooses Uehara to close over Feliz. I mean, Feliz has 21 saves. He saved 40 games -- when he was much more effective -- last season. That's probably what Washington is looking at. Uehara is much older at 36 and hasn't saved a game all year, despite being next in line for oft-terrible Kevin Gregg.
Hey, Uehara is good. Among relief pitchers with 40 innings pitched, he ranks 14th in wins above replacement, according to Fangraphs.com. His 1.72 ERA might be a bit generous, but his xFIP is 2.31. Uehara has one of the top strikeout rates of any reliever, with 62 whiffs in 47 innings. He's issued a mere eight walks all year (Feliz has issued four this month). Uehara's WHIP is 0.70. And Uehara was pretty good last season as well. I'm not worried about him handling home games in Texas, either. I am worried he won't sniff a save chance, no matter how good he is, however. Feliz owners can rest easy. If Bell was acquired, I think the Rangers would have almost been forced to move Feliz to a setup role. But now I think Uehara will handle that role.
For more of Eric's thoughts on Koji Uehara, as well as his expectations for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter, you must be an ESPN Insider!