Making The Leap To The AL East

When the Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda in January to a one year deal worth ten million dollars my initial thought was that the money would have been better spent on a bat. Nothing I’ve seen this spring from Kuroda has changed my mind.

Kuroda has pitched four seasons in MLB with the Dodgers and put up solid, but not stellar numbers.  His lifetime ERA is 3.45 but it is important to note that his ERA was compiled while pitching the majority of his games in the weak hitting NL West in very pitcher friendly NL West ballparks.  Kuroda’s lifetime ERA in 68 2/3 innings pitched against AL teams is 4.33

As you can see, Dodger Stadium ranked 22nd last year in park factor. Only Arizona (5th) is a hitter’s ballpark in the NL West.  Petco and Candlestick ranked 28th and 30th in park factor.  The rule of thumb that many use in predicting the movement in an NL pitcher heading to the AL is to add .50 to his ERA. I use this rule as a guideline but in Kuroda’s case I could see his ERA jumping as much as a full run.  Kuroda’s lifetime ERA in 68 2/3 innings pitched against AL teams is 4.33, almost a  full run higher than his lifetime ERA vs all teams.    Kuroda is heading from the pitching friendly NL West ballparks to the very hitting friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, which was 6th in park factor in 2011. The AL East possesses only one pitching friendly park in the form of the Trop (29th in park factor).  Fenway (3rd in park factor), Rogers Centre (4th in park factor), and Camden Yards (12th in park factor) are hitter’s paradises where fly balls often land in the seats.

The transition from the NL West to the AL East is the most extreme jump in difficulty that a pitcher can make in MLB.  Kuroda tied for 8th in the NL last year in HR’s allowed with 24. If he allowed 24 HR’s in the pitching friendly confines of Dodger Stadium and the NL West then just how many could he give up in the hitting friendly parks that are Yankee Stadium, Fenway, Rogers, and Camden?  Right-handed pitchers are extremely vulnerable to allowing left-handed home runs to Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right and to say I’m pessimistic about the impact Kuroda will have on the Yankees staff would be a gross understatement.

Further adding to my skepticism on this signing were the reports last season approaching the trade deadline that Kuroda did not want to pitch on the East Coast.  It was only this December that Kuroda and his agent stated that Kuroda “would be willing” to pitch on the East Coast.  I don’t buy that Kuroda’s strong opposition to pitching on the East Coast changed due to anything other than the East Coast teams being the only candidates who appeared willing to pay him what he was seeking in salary.  If he didn’t want to pitch in the East last year then why would his mindset be any different this year?   New York is a hard place to pitch if your heart isn’t into it all the way.

Some recent attempts at moving to the AL East by pitchers who had been pitching in the National League were not at all successful.  The last time the Yankees brought in a starting pitcher from the NL  was in 2010.  The disastrous trade of Melky Cabrera, and Arodys Vizcaino for Javier Vazquez still causes many Yankee fans to get nauseous.

Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright anyone? You can add those two to the list of pitchers who came to the Yankees from the NL with great expectations and failed to live up to their contracts and hype.

While it’s not unrealistic to imagine Kuroda having a solid season in the pinstripes this year, any expectations beyond that should be tempered to reflect the reality that he will be taking a step up in class.  If Kuroda is able to eat innings and keep his ERA in the area of 4.00-4.50 he should give the Yankees plenty of opportunities to win games that he starts.

About Michael P.

I am a Saratoga Springs, Ny resident whose been sports obsessed since I was 5 years old.

Posted on March 25, 2012, in Personal Opinion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. “Further adding to my skepticism on this signing were the reports last season approaching the trade deadline that Kuroda did not want to pitch on the East Coast.”

    I’m pretty sure that Kuroda just didn’t want to be traded. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to leave your teammates & the city you are accustomed to mid-way through a season.

    • mike d, If you asked me where id like to stay, LA or anywhere and I would pick LA. You can’t beat the park or the weather for a pitcher.

  2. You could argue that Kuroda and Pineda were the best pitchers available in their category.

  3. I liked the signing at the time because the Yanks needed a reliable veteran starter. However, in true hindsight – knowing what we know now with Pettite coming back, it sure would be nice to have his $10M or Garcia’s $4M to spend on a hitter.

    Combine that saved money with what they gave Ibanez and they could have gotten a nice bat to DH. Maybe Carlos Beltran?

    • Let’s hold off on the Pettitte stuff for a bit… okay? He missed time with groin and elbow issues in 2010, he didn’t pitch in 2011, and he wouldn’t be ready til early May of this season anyway. It has nothing to do with loving or hating Pettitte (I love the guy, personally), it has to do with realistic expectations.

      Without Kuroda and Garcia, for the first month of the seaosn, the Yankee rotation would be Sabathia, Nova, Pineda, Hughes, and ???. That ??? could be Burnett, and I don’t recall anybody shedding a tear upon hearing that he was traded. Hughes is coming off a season full of problems, Pineda is coming off a bad second half, and Nova is not quite a “sure thing”. So I wouldn’t go talking about passing on Hiro or Freddy quite yet. Maybe one of the two, but certainly not both.

      By the way, why would the Yankees pay a DH $13 million (the AAV of Beltran’s contract)? That seems silly to me.

      • GP…..By your reasoning everyone is a question mark I guess since you named the entire staff except CC.

        First off, I said it would be nice to have Kuroda OR Garcia’s money back now. How is that dfferent than what Cashman is trying to do now? You don’t think he’d love to trade Garcia? And if they did trade Garcia or didn’t sign him , they’d have the EXACT rotation they’d have now……CC, Kuroda, Nova, Pineda & Hughes with Pettitte, Phelps, Mitchell & Warren in the hole.

        Regarding $13M on A DH, why not? How much did they pay Posada last yr? 13M! It doesn’t matter where you spend your money as long as you get production from the player you are paying. Beltran had a .900 OPS last yr vs LHP & RHP. This yr if Ibanez and A.Jones split the DH slot they will likely make a combined $6.5M. Add in Garcia’s $4M plus incentives and you are near $11M. I’d trade those 3 for Beltran in a heartbeat. Also, Beltran could play RF when Swish likely leaves at the end of the yr or remain at DH.

        • First, I missed the “or”… sorry.

          Yes, everybody has questions except for CC. That’s why I named everybody. Which is another reason I don’t want to see Garcia traded until we know what we have in Pettitte, Hughes, etc.

          I don’t remember reading anything about Cashman trying to cut costs in order to get another DH, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about there.

          And sure, we’d have the same rotation. But like I, and others, have been saying… depth until the questions are answered. Garcia is not quite the question mark that Pettitte, Phelps, Mitchell, and Warren are.

          Posada? Really? That’s your proof that the team is okay with paying that much for a DH? Do you really think they were happy about that? The only reason they were even okay with that was because it was Jorge Posada.

          Why not $13m for a DH? Because DHs are not worth that much. Back to Posada, he didn’t get $13.3 million a year to be the DH. He got that much to be the team’s catcher, but unfortunately the team had to put him at DH because they had better options behind the dish.

          You really like that hindsight thing, don’t you? Sorry, but that’s not how the real world works. Hell, anybody can say “well in hindsight they should have done…”. Come on.

          • Greedy…..I’m not second-guessng the decision to sign Kuroda and Garcia at all. I made a simple statement that if we knew that Pettite would come back we wouldn’t need both Kuroda & Garcia. That’s not a an indictment on Cashman at all, he didn’t know Andy was coming back. All I’m saying is damn, if we knew Andy was coming back we could have spent the money on Garcia or Kuroda on a better DH. Don’t you think Cashman is saying the same thing as he wishes he could trade Garcia?

            You take innocent comments and go off on a tangent. Relax bro. We’re just talking here.

            And no it doesn’t matter how much you pay for a DH….that’s ike saying the Yanks can’t afford Gardner’s hitting in LF. What does it matter what postition you spend money on or where your production comes from?

            Would you trade Ibanez, A.Jones & Garcia for Beltran? Because the money is about the same and I guarantee the team would be better with Beltran over those 3.

            • My bad, it sounded like you were heading to that “damn, we should have done this instead” place. Not just saying “I wish that I knew what I know now… when I was younger”.

              It’s a bad personality trait of mine… I get too worked up over things. I don’t know what to say… *shrugs*.

              I look at players like Pujols, and think he’s worth more money because on top of having a killer bat he has a killer glove too. There’s a discussion about Gardner’s pay right now, based on the fact his glove offers the team so much more than his bat does. IMO, one should never pay that much for a DH. A guy that touches the field as little as a DH does, especially a DH-only type like Posada or Matsui was, should not get that much money. They just don’t do enough for the team, that the team should spend that elsewhere.

              And that doesn’t get into the fact that the Yankee DH hits in the bottom third of the order.

              That trade would be good for the Yankees, but there’s one thing… the extra guaranteed year for Beltran. You can’t discount the fact that those three are only signed for one year, and not for a lot each.

              • No problem. I often find it difficult to decipher’s ones “tone” when reading their words online. it’s much easier to understand someone in person to get their drift, if you know what I mean?

                I agree, it’s not ideal to spend big on a DH when looking at it in a vacuum. But all that really matters is getting the best team on the field for whatever amount of money the Steinbrenner family is willing to pay as a whole.

                I wouldn’t have minded Beltran on a 2 yr deal with Swisher likely departing next yr but the guy I liked was Seth Smith. He’d be an ideal platoon partner for A.Jones Was hoping we’d get him and was crushed when Billy Beane snapped him up. What do you think they should have done with DH after Montero was traded?

                • I agree that in the grand scheme of things what you get out of the team is what’s important, not what you paid for each piece.

                  By the time Montero was traded the Yanks didn’t really have much choices for the DH. I think Jones will make a great one against LHP, but what should have been done vs. RHP I wasn’t too sure about. By the time I started reading much about Seth Smith he was gone, so I didn’t bother looking any further.

                  There was a time, before the Montero trade, that I wanted the Yankees to get Yoennis Cespedes. I figured he could start in AAA, get called up to be the 4th OF at some point, then start in RF for the team after they let Swisher go.

                  I was never really concerned about the DH though, because the guy would bat 7th in the lineup. I just didn’t want a black hole there is all.

                  • Greedy, I really think the Yanks were thinking that they were going to use others in the DH role this year and didn’t want a permanent DH. They want to rotate A-Rod, Jeter. Tex, Nunez, and others in the DH this year besides Jones and Ibanez. If they had made a commitment to a full time DH this wouldn’t be possible.

        • fishjam and Greedy, I don’t like dealing in hypotheticals, bottom line is Cashman has made the best moves in the AL this past year. I always rate a move at the time of the move and not after the move. I would give him an A. I thought Vasquez and Johnson were good moves when they were picked up, and they were better pitchers than Kuroda and Pineda. Sometimes player just have bad years. You could say the Angels made better moves, but then there are those who say that the Pujols deal was worse than the A-Rod deal. Myself I always liked the A-Rod deal. Yankee fans can get spoiled trying to find the perfect team. They did win 97 games last year, and this years team is better on paper.

          • I like all of his moves too, but I don’t see a problem looking back and seeing how they worked out. Heck, I don’t think fish is bashing Cashman at all. Just a game of “what if”.

            BTW, I defended the Vazquez move as well.

          • I CRUSHED the Vazquez trade the moment it happened, and the trade of Noesi and Montero for Pineda will go down as the worst Yankee trade in 15 years. I’ll make sure to remind you all that I said this for years to come. Cashman has won one title in the last 11 seasons with the highest payroll and absurd resources. I’m sorry, but that is not acceptable. If George were still with us, he’d be unemployed.

            • P, your delusional!

            • Mike definitely going overboard. At least by everything I read I would estimate about 75 % of scouts believe the Yankees will win the trade.

              • Matt, this is a game where the right pieces must be assembled at the right time. If you can honestly tell me you aren’t concerned with: Ibanez being able to hit his weight, Swisher hitting, and Texeira breaking .250 then fine, you are correct.
                This team was not eliminated the last two years due to pitching! This team was eliminated by the three postseason zombies(Arod, Tex, Swish). I’m not sure Ibanez can hit his weight this year. If Vegas posts a prop bet of whether or not that happens, I’ll be betting under HARD.
                This team needed Montero’s bat. As wonderful as it is that Cano is now hitting where he belongs in the 3rd spot, I have GRAVE concerns about the lineup after ARod. Texeira(.255 and .248 the last two seasons) will be hitting 5th with Swisher(needed to see a shrink to help him choking in the offseason) behind him. Texeira no longer has the protection of Arod and Cano behind him. With Ibanez hitting 7th, Martin hitting 8th(.237 last year) and then Gardner. WHo is going to produce past Arod?
                Montero’s ability to get on base and hit for opposite field power was exactly what this team needed in the 5 or 6 spot.
                I don’t particularly care if Pineda develops later on. A move for a pitcher could have been made after this season with Montero’s value likely being even higher as a trade chip.
                You guys also act like Noesi was no big deal to trade. He sparkled in winter ball and already is assured of a spot in the M’s rotation.
                As the season wears on it will become obvious that the Yankees are a bat short.
                I’m tired of hearing about yesteryear or the future. At what point is the focus on NOW?!!!
                This team would have been stronger with Montero’s bat and Noesi as the 5 man than it will be with Ibanez(black hole)and Pineda.

                • Who cares why the team was eliminated the last two postseasons? That was the past. Neither Jesus Montero or Raul Ibanez could make a lick of difference to that point, so what’s the point of using it?

                  BTW, Ivan Nova did not have a great Gm1 vs. Detroit, giving up 2ER and 4BB in 6.1 innings. Not to mention that in that same Game Sabathia had to be taken out after 2 innings. And getting 5.2 innings of 1 run ball out of Burnett in Game 4 was kind of lucky too.

                  Oh, and Sabathia got lit up in Game 1 of the ALCS in 2010, Hughes got his tits lit in Game 2 of that series, Burnett got crush in Game 4, and Hughes was poor in Game 6. Heck, in the ALDS Sabathia was not good in Game 1 against Minny. So to say the pitching was good in 2010, while the hitting was the problem, is downright wrong.

                  But why let facts, or expert opinions, get in the way of your irrational opinion?

            • This is going into my Wall of Shame as one of the most ridiculous posts I’ve ever read on a Yankees message board.


              • Thats fine. As the guy who cashed on the Rangers at 25-1 to win the AL in 2010(my huge flatscreen serves as constant memory of that great call) and who cashed right back on the Rangers to win the AL at 8-1 last year(my niece had a heck of a Christmas on that one) my calls are solid ones.
                The Yankees are a bat short right now of being a serious World Series contender.
                The Rays have the best staff in MLB, the Tigers upgraded, the Angels upgraded, and the Rangers still have the best lineup of any team in MLB the last decade.
                This team has failed to hit in the postseason the last two years with any consistency. This team has also lived on the longball the past two seasons.
                Texeira hit .248 last year, Martin hit .237. Swisher was inconistent and then nonexistent in the postseason as usual along with Tex who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat after October 1st.
                Ibanez is an over the hill, no bat speed, disaster waiting to happen.
                I bleed pinstripes, but i have to call it like I see it.
                The emphasis on pitching is so overdone these days. How many rings has that dream staff won in Philly so far? The Angels had the best pitching last year in the AL and they didn’t make the playoffs.
                Its a lot easier for pitchers to do their jobs when they have run support.
                This team needed a bat, they had it, and they traded it for a guy who looks like a big question mark and who as of yet hasn’t even been assured of a rotation slot.

        • fishjam, lets face it Posada was one of the core four, the 13 mill made him the DH last year. I had Beltran at the top of may list also, but the Yanks decided they didn’t want to spend that kind of money. My feeling is that Beltran picked the team he wanted to play for, I bet the Sox offered him more money than the Cards. I’m not sure he would have come to the Yanks. More and more players are picking their teams today, rather than taking the most money. Weaver, Lee, and Oswalt to name a few.

  4. Look at it this way. Kuroda is replacing Burnett’s innings from last year. Not hard to beat.

  5. I wish I could find it, but I believe I saw a post somewhere that only one other fly ball that was hit off of Kuroda would have ended up a home run in Yankee Stadium. Showing that the change in ballpark won’t be a big issue for Hiro as far as giving up home runs. But that could have been for Pineda, as I can’t find it.

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