SleepersJune 22, 2009

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Sleeper Watch

By R.J. White

I’d like to introduce you to the best secretly-good pitcher in the majors. Koji Uehara strikes out a good number of batters, has excellent control, and keeps the ball in the yard at a respectable clip. He pitched quite well against some of the league’s best teams before landing on the DL with a hamstring injury. After a bit of a rough start in his first game back from the DL, Uehara held the Mets to two runs in five innings while striking out five and walking none. What’s there to like about Uehara? Frankly, there’s not much to dislike about the Orioles pitcher.

Uehara opened the season with five good innings against the Yankees, allowing only one run, before getting hammered in Texas, to the tune of seven runs allowed in five innings. His next five starts came against the Red Sox and Rays on the road, and the Rangers, Yankees and Angels at home. He turned in five quality starts, striking out a total of 29 batters while walking only two. Again, that’s a 29/2 K/BB ratio in five starts against some pretty serious competition. He went on to give up four runs in Kansas City before leaving a game against the Nationals early with the hamstring injury.

I just commented on the dominant five-game stretch Uehara had, but let’s look at his season numbers. He’s struck out 6.82 batters per nine innings while walking 1.78 guys per nine innings. That gives him a K/BB ratio of 3.83, better than fantasy aces Johan Santana and Jake Peavy, and good enough for 12th in the league among pitchers with at least 50 IP. Uehara’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) number sits at 3.42 (ranked 20th among pitchers with at least 50 IP), which shows you he’s been better than his 4.30 ERA indicates.

With those statistics in mind, it’s a wonder that Koji Uehara is only owned in 5% of Yahoo standard leagues. He’s scheduled to pitch Tuesday against the Marlins in Florida. After that, he’ll likely face the Nationals at home, the Angels in Los Angeles, and the Mariners in Seattle before the All-Star Break. I’d pick him up soon and plan on keeping him for the rest of the season. It’s only going to take one or two quality starts for people to realize that Uehara is a fantasy asset, so act fast.

R.J. White (or daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 14 years, making him an addict at this point. He loves writing, the Atlanta Braves, music, the Buffalo Bills, theatre, the Philadelphia Eagles, his family, and the number 42, though not in that order.
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