Kuroda’s exceding expectations

Kuroda went 8 strong last night in ND vs Boston

When Brian Cashman signed Hiroki Kuroda in January on Friday the 13th, the move was totally overshadowed  by the trade of Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda announced on the same day.  While most were patting Cash on the back for acquiring a possible #2 for the Yankee rotation, they were talking about Pineda.  Kuroda was thought to be a decent veteran pick-up who could eat innings as a back-end starter.  While we all know what happened to Pineda, Kuroda has done his utmost to pitch like that #2 starter the team was looking for.

While Kuroda had some ups and downs early in the season, he’s found his groove and is currently one of the top pitchers in the American League.  He leads the team and ranks in the Top 10 in Wins (8th), ERA (10th) & WHIP (8th).  Coming from the NL West to the AL East, most thought his numbers would suffer as the competition is greater and the ballparks are smaller.  However, thus far his numbers are nearly identical to his career numbers in the N.L. in almost every category.  This is astounding since even if he wasn’t facing better lineups (which he is), just moving from Dodger Stadium to Yankee Stadium should cause a stark change in his performance. But Kuroda has been even better in his new, smaller home park going 7-3 with a 2.63 era, 1.02 whip and tidy 0.77 HR/9.

Wins are definitely not an accurate stat to measure a pitcher’s worth as Kuroda never won more than 13 in a season with L.A. due to playing for bad teams and weak offenses.  Coming to NY, we all figured that would change.  However, Kuroda still has not gotten a lot of support from his offense.  He’s last among the Yankees 5 starters in Run Support and ranks 83rd in MLB out of 103 qualifying starters with 4.05 runs of support per game.  By contrast, CC averages 5.76 runs of support and Nova gets 5.31 runs.  The team has scored a total of just 5 runs combined in Kuroda’s last 5 losses.

With Andy on the D.L., if the playoffs started today, one would have to believe Kuroda would be the #2 starter.  In addition to being a top 10 starter in the A.L for the season, Hiroki has been even better as of late.  In his last dozen starts, he has gone 7-1 with a 2.46 era & 0.98 whip,.  In 84 innings, he’s allowed 67 hits , 15 walks and K’d 73 while averaging 7.0 innings per start.

The one area where Hiroki needs to improve is pitching early in games.  He has a tendency to give up runs in the beginning of the game before settling into a groove and throwing up zeros.  He has a 5.85 ERA in the 1st inning and a 4.28 ERA in innings 1-3.  The rest of the game his ERA drops to 2.42.  Looking at his career numbers, this isn’t a new challenge for Kuroda as he’s always had it rough in the opening frame.  This is a problem that is common in Sinker ball pitchers as they sometimes overthrow the pitch early in games when their arms are strong instead of allowing the pitch to get it’s natural downward movement.  Some pitchers try to overcompensate by warming up for a longer period of time or even jogging prior to starts to tire themselves out.  I’ve never believed in those  types of things and would prefer Kuroda to just attempt to focus on not overthrowing and mix his pitches more early in games.

Through 21 starts, Kuroda has turned out to be the best starting pitcher Cashman has acquired via Free Agency or trade since C.C.  While he’s been everything the Yanks could have hoped for so far, his true test will come in the post-season where it looks like he will be starting Game 2 or 3 in the playoffs.  If he can pitch the way he has over the last 12 starts, the Yanks will have the complement to CC they have long been searching for.  What do the rest of the Yankee fans think of Kuroda?  Do you trust him yet enough to pitch Game 2 or 3 in the playoffs or do you think he’s pitching over his head so far and will come back to Earth?

Year W L ERA GS IP ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
2012 10 7 3.28 21 137.1 129 1.17 8.3 1.0 2.4 7.2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 7/30/2012

About fishjam25

Was a 4-yr Pitcher and Communications Major at Seton Hall University in the 90s. His knowledge & opinion of the game comes from his background as a player and ardent lifetime Yankee fan. However, Fishjam also incorporates sabermetrics and statistical support to form a well-rounded view of the game.

Posted on July 30, 2012, in Player Analysis, Statistical Analysis and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Nice article Fish. Kuroda has def been one of the biggest surprises for me all year. Matthew B. has big one of his biggest supporters on here so far from the start.

  2. He hasn’t exceeded my expectations :). What I have liked from the start is he is a guy that knows how to pitch and he has the stuff to back it up. He can still throw his fastball 93-94 and has really been throwing his 2 seamer effectively of late, which has made him even better. When you throw in his excellent splitter and very good slider you have a guy with 4 plus pitches. Combine that with his pitching smarts like I mentioned and you have a guy who can be a #2 or 3 anywhere.

  3. What stands out is that WHIP …. 1.17 for a starter is SWEEEEEEET!

  4. Kuroda is a veteran who can adapt to different lineups and attack in different ways. i think that is why he so much better later in games. he feels a lineup out before adjusting and attacking with what works best that day.

    I like the fact that he can get a groundball when he needs it with his 2-seamer (4 DPs ystrday) and go for the strikeout with his Slider or Splitter when needed. While he usually sits in the 91-92 range, he can also reach back for 94 when needed. His stuff is very good for a 37 yr old pitcher.

  5. Kuroda has been a life saver for the Yanks this year, he has given them many quality starts!

  6. Excellent article Fish. Apparently they had tried to acquire him in the past… Easy to see why they liked him so much. He’s definitely a thinking pitcher, and knows how to pick apart a lineup. He has enough tools that if one isn’t working he has other ways to get outs. Love the way he bears down in tight spots; he doesn’t get rattled easily and stays within his game. That all bodes well for a playoff appearance.

    I think you definitely want to try to get him as many games as possible in a PS series, but I think our opponent (and more importantly the ballpark) should somewhat dictate who pitches when. I think I’d rather have our lefties in YS, and the HR happy pitcher in the bigger park, wether it’s Hughes or Nova. Kuroda I would trust either home or away. I believe this year it’s a 2-3 format, so if NY has HFA they’d start with two on the road which could set up CC and Hiroki followed by Andy to open the home set.

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