Koji Uehara: one of the 20 best relief seasons ever?

smastroyin

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The LCS was Ortiz and it should have been.
 
He's talking about the WS, where Manny was a pretty good candidate, but probably behind Foulke and Bellhorn.
 

trekfan55

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smastroyin said:
The LCS was Ortiz and it should have been.
 
He's talking about the WS, where Manny was a pretty good candidate, but probably behind Foulke and Bellhorn.
 
I read 2004 and I immediately think the ALCS (sort of like the USA vs USSR hockey game, it did not mean medals for anyone) my bad.
 
The rest of my post still stands,
 

Koufax

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Foulke definitely got jobbed.  Maybe Uehara will be treated more fairly.
 

koufax37

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ivanvamp said:
Lester has been really good this series too:  11.2 ip, 13 h, 3 r, 3 er, 4 bb, 7 k, 2.31 era
 
But yes, to me, Koji has been the Sox' MVP this series so far.  
 
Except Lester has a loss and no LCS MVP in either league has ever been given to a starter with a loss (although Schilling won it for the Phillies with two no decisions).  Also, I don't think he is near dominant enough in terms of avoiding runs, avoiding baserunners, striking out batters, or throwing a lot of innings to merit real consideration even if he were 2-0.
 
With all the one run games and lack of offense, the series seems primed for a dominant reliever to get it, but I expect Napoli would be the slight favorite if he can do anything tonight, and Lackey wins it if he wins game 7.
 
Either way he has been awesomely awesome since the Orioles moved him to the pen in 2010, and what he has done recently is not that far from his performance over the last few seasons as a middle reliever.  He has gotten to an Eck/Rivera level over a short period of time.  The fact that he does it without throwing 95 really makes me think he has a few more years of this left in him.
 

Seabass177

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 Pos wrote a nice piece about Koji just now. Haven't seen his stats since he was made closer posted like this before:
 
Innings pitched: 44 1/3
Hits allowed: 14
Hits allowed (seriously): 14
Come on, how many hits did he allow?: 14
That’s ridiculous: I know.
Runs allowed: 3
Home runs allowed: 1
Strikeouts: 59
Walks: 2
OK stop it right now: 2 walks. Look it up.
Batting average against: .097
On-base percentage: .108
Slugging percentage: .152
WHIP: You sure you’re ready for this?
Say it already: Ask nicely.
WHIP: 0.358
 
God, this is fun. 
 

twothousandone

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JimD said:
 
 it would be great if they could get ahead on Saturday and build up enough of a run cushion to allow Dempster to close it out and give Koji a five-day break before the WS.
What is the cushion required to keep Uehara in the pen? I know it's more than three, and I don't think it's four. 
 
A five run lead, entering the seventh, permits them to use Breslow and Tazawa, and Dempster pitches the ninth? 
 
At that point, do they, or are they at least prepared to, mix in Workman, Morales, maybe even Doubront? Leaving Dempster for the ninth, but Uehara sitting there in case Dempster loads the bases? Of do they keep Morales available to get Fielder or Avila for the final out if Dempster gets two outs, while loading the bases? That way even in a disaster, Uehara comes in with a one-run lead, the bases empty, and more than one out?
 
If you agree with burden of mental pressure -- and I do -- it probably requires explaining the plan to Uehara in the seventh, and telling him to relax in the pen right up until . . .two guys are on? The he starts getting ready mentally and loosening up, whatever is appropriate be it the seventh, eighth or ninth?
 
I love the idea of Uehara NOT pitching in game six, and the Red Sox winning, as much for the mental break followed by a mini vacation as the physical. But "allow Dempster to close it out" keeps ME from taking a mental break until the final out. And I know Dempster has been a closer, and a GOOD closer in his career. He's got 4.2  innings of relief in the past month without letting up a run. But it makes me nervous. He's not Embree or Timlin or Williamson. 
 

donutogre

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Bucknahs Bum Ankle said:
 
This belongs here:
 


 
What a complete 180 from Koji's typical celebrations of exuberance.  It goes to show how much the stress of the situation and having to get 5 key outs with little to no margin for error must have really wore him down.  This one was different.  That said, I have no doubt he'll be amped up and ready to go again for another big save in Game 6 if needed. 

 
 
This is awesome, thanks for posting. Dude has really been clutch, not that it's a surprise. But man, lots of high-stress innings lately. I too hope they can blow open game 6 and give him a decent long rest. Or at the very least, let's hope it's not a one-run save situation.
 

Rdsxmbnt

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Seabass177 said:
 Pos wrote a nice piece about Koji just now. Haven't seen his stats since he was made closer posted like this before:
 
 
God, this is fun. 
 
But actually, has a pitcher ever had a more dominant ~50 inning stretch than that?
 

mt8thsw9th

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smastroyin said:
He's talking about the WS, where Manny was a pretty good candidate, but probably behind Foulke and Bellhorn.
 
Bellhorn also bailed out Manny for his awful errors in game 1. Manny had a good series, but Bellhorn contributed a lot more than Manny's 1st inning home run in game 4 and 6 singles. I think they were looking for a "name" to slap onto the award.
 

24JoshuaPoint

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This belongs here:
 
 
That's awesome. He's certainly giving everything he's got in his tank. After that embrace you can hear somebody (I think Napoli) chanting to get him to into a jumping high five and get him fired up like his normal self. The beards are great but I think this guy embodies some of that 'chemistry' they were missing. His exuberance in the dugout has been hilarious yet inspiring since pretty early in the season.
 

EastCoasterOutWest

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trekfan55 said:
 
In 2004 a case could be made for David Ortiz.  He won Games 4 and 5 (had the HR that brought them within 1 in the 8th inning of Game 1 as well) had the HR in Game 7 after Damon had been thrown out...
 
In this case, I don't see any player having an impact higher than Uehara in the Sox 3 wins so far.  Both his saves were of more than 3 outs and both were preserving a 1 run lead on the road.  And he pitched a scoreless 9th in a tie game the Sox won.  That's right now, he would have my vote.
 
I can see the case for Napoli. His HR in game 3 was the only run of the game. His performance last night (HR and scored what turned into the winning run) helped. If he does something significant tonight (another HR), he'll get it. Not that I think it would be the best choice, but I wouldn't be upset about it.
 

selahsean

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No matter what happens going forward this will be my favorite performance by a Red Sox reliever.  I'll always remember Foulke and Papelbon fondly, but this is tops for me.
 
Joe Posnanski's piece, as always, tells the story in a way that a non-fan and a gamer can appreciate. This metaphor's perfect:
 
And his split-fingered fastball tends to work as a change-up (it’s 8 mph slower than the fastball, which is close to the idea difference) AND it dives down late. From a hitter’s perspective, apparently, this is like walking out into a field and being unsure if you will be attacked by wasps or zombie arms coming out of the ground. Hitters do not know where to look.
 
M

MentalDisabldLst

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selahsean said:
No matter what happens going forward this will be my favorite performance by a Red Sox reliever.  I'll always remember Foulke and Papelbon fondly, but this is tops for me.
 
Nothing could top Foulke for me.  I'll always hold him in the highest regard for literally sacrificing his career to give us what we needed to get through, at a time when nothing less than our best reliever would give us a chance.  Plus, you know, 86 years and all.  Nobody performed better under more pressure.  By comparison, Koji is playing with house money - no one will throw themselves off the Tobin if Koji coughs up the game and the series in the ALCS or WS.
 
But damn if it isn't just as FUN to watch Uehara win with accuracy and deception, rather than Dan Bard-ian velocity.
 

SumnerH

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MentalDisabldLst said:
 
Nothing could top Foulke for me.  I'll always hold him in the highest regard for literally sacrificing his career to give us what we needed to get through, at a time when nothing less than our best reliever would give us a chance.  Plus, you know, 86 years and all.  Nobody performed better under more pressure.  By comparison, Koji is playing with house money - no one will throw themselves off the Tobin if Koji coughs up the game and the series in the ALCS or WS.
 
But damn if it isn't just as FUN to watch Uehara win with accuracy and deception, rather than Dan Bard-ian velocity.
 
Foulke also won without a supreme heater.  By the end of the 2004 postseason it seemed like a miracle that he wasn't being smacked around the park, but somehow guile and deception got the outs.
 
Foulke wasn't as fun, to me--he's my favorite, but his appearances were draining and he always seemed to be on the edge of giving it up.  Uehara instills a confidence akin to Papelbon in his prime, but without the velocity.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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He's worn out. But it's clearly more mental than anything. He's never had to so anything like this before. And honestly he's being asked to set up and close it out. It's pretty incredible.

I'm not to worried about the workload. Even though he's pitched a lot, he's still been efficient and limited the pitch count. He threw 26 pitches last night. Lets not act like that's a monster number.
 
 
I would argue that, if anything, low pitch counts are very deceptive this time of year.   Most of his post-season appearances have been in extremely high-leverage situation save for game two of the ALDS and even then, I would argue that it wasn't your typical three run save.  Every other appearance has been with the Sox within one run of their opponent or tied.   He has also appeared in four out of five games in this series.  The cumulative impact of pitching in so many tight games, often for more than one inning and, in each case, under near must-win conditions trumps the number of pitches thrown.  
 
In short, Koji and the closers who came before him lay their careers on the line by virtue of being ridden hard, under the most stressful conditions a reliever can face.  
 

dwainw

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DeJesus Built My Hotrod said:
 
 
I would argue that, if anything, low pitch counts are very deceptive this time of year.   Most of his post-season appearances have been in extremely high-leverage situation save for game two of the ALDS and even then, I would argue that it wasn't your typical three run save.  Every other appearance has been with the Sox within one run of their opponent or tied.   He has also appeared in four out of five games in this series.  The cumulative impact of pitching in so many tight games, often for more than one inning and, in each case, under near must-win conditions trumps the number of pitches thrown.  
 
In short, Koji and the closers who came before him lay their careers on the line by virtue of being ridden hard, under the most stressful conditions a reliever can face.  
No doubt.  Doesn't his expression in that clip say it all?  That's not intended to be critical commentary on his usage.  But the dude is producing superhuman results that would seem to require darn near superhuman physical and mental exertion.  Pitch counts, schmitch schmounts, Koji is splattering his guts all over the mound every time he pitches.  Let's hope he's got enough left to carry us to Halloween.
 

cardiacs

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The Sox are getting more exposure in Japan last few weeks due largely to Uehara. A few times recently I was asked if having beards was customary of Bostonians. My reply is "only very recently"
 

glasspusher

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cardiacs said:
The Sox are getting more exposure in Japan last few weeks due largely to Uehara. A few times recently I was asked if having beards was customary of Bostonians. My reply is "only very recently"
That's awesome. Good to see them rooting for the hometown boy!
 

SaveBooFerriss

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Uehara is really the polar opposite of the steely eyed intimidating closer. I thought he looked like he was about to hyperventilate before he he threw the first pitch last date. 
 
Looks can really be deceiving.  He looks lke a complete mess, but pitches like he owns the league. 
 

Sam Ray Not

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A tidbit about Koji, from his Japanese Wikipedia page: he wears number 19 not because he's a big Fred Lynn fan but because he was 19 when his life turned around. He had failed to gain admission to Osaka University of Health and Sports Sciences -- to achieve his goal of being a PE teacher -- and was working a part-time job in construction (the night shift) while preparing to reapply the next year. At this low point he somehow got his hands on Nolan Ryan's pitcher's bible and was inspired to become a pitcher. He gained admission the next year, made the university baseball team, and the rest is history (and still being written...)
 
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Koji is also the anti-Matsuzaka. He attacks hitters and throws strikes with splitters that dart and dive like the mythical gyroball we never quite witnessed with the national hero of Japan. Koji is a true joy to watch.
 

terrisus

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selahsean said:
No matter what happens going forward this will be my favorite performance by a Red Sox reliever.  I'll always remember Foulke and Papelbon fondly, but this is tops for me.
 
Not to take anything away from Koji, but, nothing will ever top Foulke in my eyes as far as postseason relievers go.
 
Pitched in 5 of the 7 ALCS games (6 innings total), giving up a grand total of 1 hit (although 6 walks) and 0 runs (Oh yeah, and then pitched in all 4 World Series games (5 innings), giving up 4 hits, 1 run, and 1 walk), under some of the more stressful conditions imaginable, and was never the same pitcher again afterwards. 
 
If Koji gave up a couple of runs and we lost the series (requiring a 2-game swing), it would have sucked, but this season was already much better than any of us imagined. 
If Foulke gave up even a couple of hits, and we lost that series (requiring only a 1-game swing), it would have been the Yankees coming out on top of us for the 2nd year in a row, and us going on 87 years and counting without a World Series. 
 
What Koji has done is amazing. 
What Foulke did was legendary.
 

Koufax

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What Foulke did was, so far, greater than what Koji has done.  But give him time.  The WS has not yet begun.
 

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Foulke was a god, and left his arm on the field bringing us that title. Koji inspires more confidence, but has a long way to go to match what Keith did for this team.
 

Andrew

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Koji's performance can only be considered second to Foulke because Foulke was doing it in the face of 86 years of frustration. Koji is better. That said, Foulke meant more to me.
 

bball831

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Let Koji throw 50 pitches and then come back and pitch the next two days before we put him on Foulke's level for post season achievements. 
 
Foulke: 14 IP, 7 H, 8 BB, 19 K, 1 ER - 5 multi inning appearances including a 2.2 IP outing
Koji: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 13 K, 1 ER - 3 multi inning appearances
 
Koji has the edge in pure numbers but Foulke's degree of difficulty was much higher. 3-4 big appearance in the World Series and then we can push him past Foulke.
 

Sprowl

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bball831 said:
Let Koji throw 50 pitches and then come back and pitch the next two days before we put him on Foulke's level for post season achievements. 
 
Foulke: 14 IP, 7 H, 8 BB, 19 K, 1 ER - 5 multi inning appearances including a 2.2 IP outing
Koji: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 13 K, 1 ER - 3 multi inning appearances
 
Koji has the edge in pure numbers but Foulke's degree of difficulty was much higher. 3-4 big appearance in the World Series and then we can push him past Foulke.
It will never happen. With 50 pitches Koji would throw a complete game.

As his eight walks show, Foulke nibbled more than Koji, and it was easy to tell when Foulke was wasting a pitch to change the batter's eye level. Koji has entered a virtuous circle where no batter dares not to swing because everybody knows that he throws strikes.
 

SumnerH

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Sprowl said:
It will never happen. With 50 pitches Koji would throw a complete game.

As his eight walks show, Foulke nibbled more than Koji, and it was easy to tell when Foulke was wasting a pitch to change the batter's eye level. Koji has entered a virtuous circle where no batter dares not to swing because everybody knows that he throws strikes.
 
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/DET/DET201007050.shtml
 
Look at that box score and savor it, for it is unique:  
 
Koji Uehara, in the bottom of the 5th, walked Detroit's Brennan Boesch on 4 consecutive pitches.  It's the only time in his MLB career that he's walked a batter on 4 pitches.  
 
(It was one of 5 walks he issued that year, to go along with 55 Ks)
 

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Excerpt from the NYT this morning:
 
...In a September game in 1999, when Uehara was pitching for the Yomiuri Giants, the team’s manager directed him to pitch around and walk Roberto Petagine of the Yakult Swallows. Petagine was in a close battle for the home run title with Uehara’s teammate Hideki Matsui (who later joined the Yankees), and the Giants did not want to give Petagine a chance to hit a homer.
 
Uehara, then a 24-year-old rookie, was not pleased by the instructions. After throwing a fastball far outside for ball four, he kicked the mound in disgust. Then, as a television camera zoomed in on his face, Uehara was seen wiping tears from his eyes.
 
“I didn’t like the fact that I had to be one of the reasons someone would win and someone would lose the title,” he said Saturday. “If you are going to win any kind of title, it has to be fair and in a way he can be proud of.”
 
 

Jaylach

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This article is more about the changes happening in the NPB, but it focuses mainly on Koji and Taz. There is a great bit in here about Koji. I actually never realized he wasn't a star, nor did he even really pitch, in high school. It seems the dude had a pretty hard road, which makes what he's done with his career (and this year specifically) all the more incredible. 
 

Uehara’s dramatic rise from overlooked off-season signing to post-season hero mirrors the improbable journey of his baseball career. Unlike many Japanese professional players, Uehara, who hails from the western Japanese city of Osaka, wasn’t a high school star. He played outfield and, in his final year of high school, he backed up a more prominent pitcher on his team, Yoshinori Tateyama, who had a long career in Japan with the Nippon Ham Fighters and played for two years with the Texas Rangers. But he rarely took the mound and no professional teams took him seriously.
 
Uehara applied to the Osaka College of Physical Education, but he failed to pass the entrance exam. Instead of quitting, Uehara went to prep school, worked out at the local gym and got a part-time job working night-time construction. On his second try, he was accepted and made it on the university’s baseball team.
 
After a year and a half of not pitching, he discovered that his fastball had gained velocity. Never a hard thrower, his fastball had ticked up to above 90 miles per hour. He quickly became the ace of the team’s pitching staff and was selected to represent Japan in the Intercontinental Cup, an amateur international tournament. There, he caught the eye of scouts by defeating Cuba in the finals, snapping the island country’s 151-game winning streak in international competitions.
 
http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/10/22/bostons-bullpen-duo-a-sign-of-changes-in-japanese-baseball/?mod=wsj_streaming_stream
 

Savin Hillbilly

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Jaylach said:
This article is more about the changes happening in the NPB, but it focuses mainly on Koji and Taz. There is a great bit in here about Koji. I actually never realized he wasn't a star, nor did he even really pitch, in high school. It seems the dude had a pretty hard road, which makes what he's done with his career (and this year specifically) all the more incredible.
 
Kind of reminiscent of Nava's story. I love it that we have guys like that playing key roles on this team.
 

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With tonight's effort, Uehara now has 7 saves this postseason. That ties him for the most ever in a single year with Wetteland (1996), Percival (2002), Nen (2002), and Lidge (2008).
 

riboflav

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Has thrown 100 fewer pitches than Foulke did in 2004 postseason thus far in just 1 and 2/3 fewer innings.
 
EDIT: Wow, Foulke really did lay his career and body on the line. Screw the way he was treated in 2005. Still impressive how efficient Uehara is.
 

JohntheBaptist

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riboflav said:
Has thrown 100 fewer pitches than Foulke did in 2004 postseason thus far in just 1 and 2/3 fewer innings.
 
EDIT: Wow, Foulke really did lay his career and body on the line. Screw the way he was treated in 2005. Still impressive how efficient Uehara is.
 
That's completely incredible.  Thanks for passing this on.
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

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A cool article translating parts of Koji's blog here. There was a post somewhere wondering if Koji minded the Ortiz lift, I think this puts that question to bed.
 
 
When the Sox eliminated the Rays, Uehara posted a photo of Ortiz hoisting him over his shoulder like a 100-pound bag of sugar.
“Am I that light? Or maybe it’s that Papi is too strong,’’ he wrote. “This color photo was in US newspapers the day after the game. This made me really happy.’’
 

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The more that comes put about Koji - his blog, his interviews with Andrews after the ALCS and WS - the more I love him. Humble and funny. He really is the anti-Papelbon in personality as well as how he pitches.
 

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This guy became one my favorite players ever in just a few months- everything about this guy is just great, from the way he carries himself to the way he pitches. Drink up Koji. Have some champagne while you're at it. 
 
 
With no margin for error, Uehara brilliantly recorded a four-out save in a 1-0 Sox victory in Game 3 against the Tigers.
“To be honest, I feel like throwing up. Stomach also hurts,’’ he wrote afterward. “We’ve come this far so I guess I have to whip my body a little bit more and keep pushing myself. After everything is finished, I’m going to drink a lot of beer.’’
 

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JGray38 said:
This guy became one my favorite players ever in just a few months- everything about this guy is just great, from the way he carries himself to the way he pitches. Drink up Koji. Have some champagne while you're at it. 
 
Koji's unbelievable nerve in serving up his 89 mph fastball - with mind-boggling success, and his unhittable splitter, gave me the most pleasure of any of our players this season.  Without wanting to diminish Ortiz (whom I adore) or Lester (whom I admire(, I thought Koji should have been considered for WS MVP.  Where would we have been without him?
 

dbn

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So, he kind of had a pretty good post season.
 
I watched game six with an old friend at a bar in San Pedro.  At the next table was a guy in Red Sox garb.  We chatted a bit and he told me that one of the girls at his booth was something (sister, cousin, ... it was loud and I was drinking) to Keith Foulke.  I thought it worth mention in a Uehara thread.
 
M

MentalDisabldLst

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Compilation tribute video with (annoying / cute, take your pick) song:
 
[media]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAdTEoZHOkc[/media]
 

TigerBlood

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Theme song aside, how on Earth do you not end that video with the World Series-clinching strikeout???
Because it was made before the playoffs even started?
 

Sprowl

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It's amazing how many memes got started in SoSH game threads. I think the video owes Johnny the Bone or topps148 credit.

But yeah, the video kinda sucks. Like Scu-Scu-Scutaro, U-E-baby was better before it was video.
 
M

MentalDisabldLst

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Hey, it's a slow offseason, and I wanted more Koji in my life.
 
Anyone got a better Koji highlight video?