(SportsNetwork.com) - Was there a more nondescript signing this offseason than the Boston Red Sox adding a right-handed reliever named Koji Uehara?
It was about as under-the-radar a transaction as you will find, but Uehara has become the most important player on a Red Sox team that is going to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the 109th edition of the World Series.
It looked bleak for John Farrell's club when not one, but two closers went down with season-ending injuries. Uehara, though, stepped in for both Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey and simply put forth one of the best statistical seasons by a reliever in Major League Baseball history.
Just how good was he?
Well, Uehara's mind-blowing 0.57 walks plus hits per nine innings was the lowest in baseball history by a pitcher who logged at least 50 innings, eclipsing Dennis Eckersley's 0.61 standard set in 1989 by a considerable margin.
Also, his 1.09 ERA this season was the best in the majors of any pitcher with 50 or more innings. Plus, he hasn't walked a batter in any of his last 30 appearances and is pitching to a 0.61 ERA in all of his save chances, including the postseason.
Uehara has saved five games for the Red Sox through the first two rounds of the playoffs to go along with a 1.00 ERA. The only run he allowed was a walk- off home run to Tampa catcher Jose Lobaton in his ALDS Game 3 loss to the Rays.
But, it hasn't been just him either.
Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Brandon Workman, Franklin Morales, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront have combined for a 0.84 ERA, 28 strikeouts and a .209 batting average against in 32 innings of relief this postseason.
The bullpen has made it real easy on Farrell, whose starting staff hasn't been that sharp with the exception of Jon Lester. Boston's starters pitched to a 4.78 ERA against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS and are 4-2 with a 4.29 ERA this postseason.
Speaking of Game 1 starter Lester, he could prove to be very important right out of the gate, as the Cardinals managed just a .238 average against left- handers this postseason.
Lester has been by far the best starting pitcher this October for the Red Sox and is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA.
St. Louis may have the two best starting pitchers in this World Series in rookie Michael Wacha and National League wins leader Adam Wainwright, but didn't Detroit have a pretty good starting staff, too?
Yes, they did. In fact, they pitched to a 2.06 ERA in the ALCS and still were on the hook for three losses. Why? Well, for one, Boston's lineup is relentless, and two, they seem to get every big hit they need (see David Ortiz and Shane Victorino grand slams).
More importantly, though, they have a plan at the plate. They make these starters work.
Heck, Detroit's Anibal Sanchez had a no-hitter going in Game 1 of the ALCS and had to leave after six innings because his pitch count was so high. No pitcher was more dominant in that series than likely AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, but he didn't see the eighth inning in either game.
Not to mention the Red Sox will have a huge advantage in Games 3 and 4 with Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy against the likes of Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn.
Now St. Louis has a better bullpen than Detroit had, but it is an extremely young corps and one that throws nothing but fastballs. In case you haven't been paying attention this Red Sox team feasts on that kind of pitching.
Lefty Kevin Siegrist has been a big part of the Cardinals' run, but do you think the 24-year-old is up to the task of getting Big Papi out in a big spot?
If you want an X-factor for the Red Sox, how about 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts? As highly-regarded as any young player in baseball, Bogaerts will apparently start at third base in place of the struggling Will Middlebrooks, despite being a shortstop by nature.
Bogaerts has hit three doubles in six at-bats this postseason and has totaled a .727 on-base-percentage in his six games.
The biggest edge Boston has in this World Series, though, may simply come down to having home-field advantage. The Red Sox have won all four games at home in their last two trips to the Fall Classic and NL teams were just 2-8 in Boston this past season.
The bottom line is that the Red Sox are just the better overall team.
Get the Duck Boats ready in Boston, because the Red Sox are about to celebrate their eighth World Series title.