Perhaps the lack of interest thus far in Kuroda is the knowledge that he is only signed for a year. He probably will not be around in 2013, so there is no reason to get too excited. He is a placeholder for some of the young pitching prospects that the Yankees have bursting at the seams like the lions and the manhole cover of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. In a Yankee era that must include some budget restraints to get to a $189 million payroll by 2014, Kuroda was the guy the Yankees signed instead of investing long-term for guys like C.J. Wilson. A Wilson signing would have meant endless press coverage and his every spring move would have been scrutinized to the point of nausea. But not Kuroda.
But again, he is penciled in for 30+ starts for this 2012 New York Yankees team, so he is quite the big deal. While speculation abounds for who will round out the rotation, Kuroda after C.C. Sabathia have been the two rocks of logic. We all know what we will get from Sabathia. The ace has won seventy percent of his games since he put on the Yankees’ uniform. He’ll pitch his 230 innings and be what he’s always been (looking for some wood to knock). Do we have any idea what to expect from Hiroki Kuroda? His numbers have been remarkably consistent through his four years as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But how will that play in the American League and in a home stadium that isn’t as cavernous as the one in Chavez Ravine?
Trying to answer that question this morning took quite a bit of pouring over his numbers. One thing the numbers indicated is that Kuroda’s career showed a home/road split that shows no split at all. He was the same pitcher on the road as he was at Dodgers Stadium. The numbers are staggeringly close. He struggled pitching at Coors Field against the Rockies, but that is understandable. His numbers were slightly higher in Arizona which is also understandable. But he pitched well in hitter’s parks like Cincinnati, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Standard logic would indicate that his average of just over seven strikeouts per nine innings would take a hit not facing a pitcher every ninth plate appearance. But in his small sample size pitching against the American League during inter-league play, Kuroda has averaged the same number of strikeouts (7.2 per nine). You can look at his ERA in those eleven career inter-league starts and see that it is a run higher than his career ERA, but we will allow that as a bit fluky since his WHIP in those eleven starts is nearly identical to his career WHIP.
With all that said, Kuroda should continue his career string of never having a FIP of over 3.79 and maintain his career SIERA of 3.75. Projections systems have him sort of all over the place. They predict he will win between eleven and fifteen games. They predict his ERA will be anywhere from 3.54 to 4.33 and his innings pitched from 150 to just over 200. There is not much to learn there other than projection systems do not think alike.
The career of Hiroki Kuroda is one of a quiet professional going about his business in a steady and predictable manner. With that history, his story as a Yankee will not be splashy unless he fails spectacularly. He is an important part of the Yankee puzzle for 2012 and all the Yankees need is for him to be the kind of pitcher he has always been. If he is, then the quiet will be more than welcomed.