Keri: The dominance of Koji

From Jonah Keri at on September 18, 2013:

Danny Valencia pulled off a minor miracle Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

Facing Red Sox closer Koji Uehara in the ninth inning, the Orioles’ red-hot designated hitter cranked a leadoff triple, then came around to score what would prove to be the winning run. What made that three-bagger miraculous were the streaks it shattered. That triple marked the first hit — the first baserunner — Uehara had allowed in a month. The run Valencia scored marked the first time anyone got on the board against Uehara since July 6, and the first earned run since June 30.

With that streak over, it’s time to see how Uehara’s two and a half months of unhittable excellence rank against the greatest closer runs in history. To assist me in this mission, we enlisted the help of the invaluable Baseball-Reference Play Index and skilled researcher Ryan Spaeder. Using the Play Index tool and Baseball-Reference’s database, he scoured all relief performances about as long as Uehara’s dating back to 1960, the year that Chicago sportswriter Jerome Holtzman codified the save rule.

Before we get to the results, one theme jumps out and smacks you in the face: We’re in a golden age for closers, or at least for big numbers by closers. Three of the top 16 stretches in the past 53 years happened this season, with eight of the top 35 popping up since 2010.

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Originally published: September 18, 2013. Last Updated: September 18, 2013.