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December 18, 2012

Out of Left Field

What the Internet Can Teach Us About Koji Uehara

by Matthew Kory

Last week the Red Sox signed Koji Uehara. The deal was for a year and $4.25 million. It seemed like a bargain considering how good Uehara has been. I had the privilege of writing the Transaction Analysis that, uh, analyzed that transaction. Ahem.

If you’ve read my work here at Baseball Prospectus, you know straight analysis isn’t always my thing. But with this piece I thought, this is the official BP take on this signing, so I’d better keep the silly stuff to a minimum. So I did. After submitting the piece, I received a helpful email from my editor stating, in part, “[TA] is really an opportunity to go deep on one part of his game or one part of the team's need.” In essence TA isn’t solely a vehicle for straight analysis. A bit of creativity is welcome as well.

It might be a bit late, but I decided to go in search of that creativity anyway. What had I missed in my original TA on Uehara? I had already looked at his stats, but what else had I missed? I turned to my trusty friend for help. Internet, I asked, what can you teach me about Koji Uehara? Did the internet step up? You best believe it did.

1. The first step in any informational search is typing the subject’s name into a search engine, in this case Google. When you do, you get a nice little bio on Uehara. According to Wikipedia, which supplied the information for the bio, “Uehara is a control pitcher, with a high-80s four-seam fastball and a forkball as his primary pitches.” As it turns out, that isn’t correct. In fact, Uehara throws a split-finger fastball, at least according our own Brooks Baseball. What’s the difference? According to Wikipedia*, the same source that gave me incorrect information on Uehara’s repertoire so you know it must be accurate, the split-fingered fastball is held between the first two fingers, like this:

The forkball is pushed further in between those first two fingers, like this:

The forkball also requires the snapping down of the wrist while releasing it. The split-finger is more like pulling down a lampshade. So if you throw a pitch with a baseball jammed between your fingers and the room doesn’t get darker, it was a split. No, I’m not making this up, though if I was there would certainly be no way for you to retrace my steps to check. I’ve got you cornered, reader! So…

* The Dickson Baseball Dictionary agrees.

The First Thing The Internet Taught Me About Koji Uehara: There is a difference between a forkball and a split-finger and Koji Uehara throws the second, not the first.

2. If you were reading the above referenced bio, you would notice further down that it lists Uehara’s particulars. I checked his listed birthday, height, and weight against Uehara’s BP player card and they match. (Drat.) Below that, two bits of personal information are listed. The first is wife, but we’ll get back to that. The second is “children” who are listed as “Kazuma Uehara.” Not being Japanese or familiar with Japanese in the slightest, I’m unsure if Kazuma is a son or daughter. Googling the name gets you to a twitter feed, the avatar of which looks like the back of a man standing on a boat above the words “newsun” and “everyday fish.” Just about everything else is in Japanese. So Uehara has a son who likes to fish. Or he doesn’t. It should be noted here that there are other ways of obtaining this information but, as they include talking to actual people, I choose to not avail myself of them.

The Second Thing The Internet Taught Me About Koji Uehara: He has a son who likes to fish or maybe no that’s wrong. Also I’m afraid of people.

3. Googling Uehara’s wife is more interesting. And now I regret typing that sentence but as I’m writing on a computer there is nothing I can do about it. Someone should really invent a Delete key. But back to Uehara’s wife, whose name is listed as Miho Uehara. This being a family website I sadly must restrict myself to this: if that is indeed the name of Uehara’s wife, she shares the same name as a woman whose Google results are decidedly Not Safe For Work Or Church Or Family Picnics And Should Probably Not Even Be Looked At On Your Cell Phone While Waiting For Your Dry-Cleaning To Be Ready. Or as they say on the internet, NSFWOCOFPASPNEBLAOYCPWWFYD-CTBR. One more way to put it: if you Google her name it might be because you are about to google yourself. That’s a capitalization joke.

The Third Thing The Internet Taught Me About Koji Uehara: His wife might share a name with someone who enjoys appearing in naked and compromising positions on the internet. Also capitalization jokes are hilarious.

4. Pretending that no. 3 never happened, Uehara’s maybe-son’s Twitter feed got me thinking: maybe Uehara himself has a twitter feed. What goodies might reveal themselves to me there? A simple search later and presto, here it is: @TeamUehara! And it’s entirely in Japanese! A language I don’t know enough about to discern that it is, in fact, Japanese.

His feed looks like this:

 

Right away you can see the problem. You can also see he has his own website. Which is also in Japanese. Which I still can’t read. Why can’t everyone just speak English so I wouldn’t ever have to learn anything?*

*To be clear, that was a joke. My inability to speak languages other than English (though I do dabble in Canadian) is a personal failing of mine and though I find overt ethnocentrism humorous it, in my view, is not an acceptable way to live in our global community.

So, from his blog here is The Fourth Thing The Internet Taught Me About Koji Uehara: He likes golf.

5. 

The Fifth Thing The Internet Taught Me About Koji Uehara: Comically over-sized mass-produced food-like products make him smile.

6. Uehara is a more interesting player than I let on in my Transaction Analysis piece. His PITCHf/x page shows he possesses both extreme control and extreme effectiveness, rare qualities in pitchers with his limited velocity and arsenal. The slower a pitcher throws, the more exact he must be. Uehara throws slow (relatively) so his results show him to be shockingly exact. He is limited in his role as a reliever, but even so he’s 50 innings of Greg Maddux salted with the occasional launched home run, presumably to keep things interesting.*

*That makes it sound like Greg Maddux is food. To my knowledge Greg Maddux is not food. Though that isn’t to say that if he was food he wouldn’t be delicious.

If a manager had 50 innings of a Hall of Fame pitcher to deploy at his leisure, that manager might end up seeming just a bit smarter at the end of the season. Maybe that’s the real angle to take with all of this. That he enjoys comically over-sized mass-produced food-like products just makes things that much better.

Matthew Kory is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Matthew's other articles. You can contact Matthew by clicking here

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