Counting on Kuroda

Let’s start with those Yankee Stadium concerns. Um…there are not any Yankee Stadium concerns. Kuroda is 8-4 at home with a 2.22 ERA. His strikeout to walk ratio is higher at home. He gives up less home runs at home. Batters have a combined OPS of only .589 against Kuroda in his fifteen home starts. In fact, it is a much scarier proposition when Kuroda pitches on the road this season where he is a mundane 3-4 with an ERA of 4.23. Kuroda has allowed nine homers on the road in ten starts and only eight at Yankee Stadium in fifteen starts. Let’s just say that Kuroda feels pretty good pitching at home.

The concern that Hiroki Kuroda would have difficulty in the meat grinder of the American League was well founded. The recent trade deadline deals concerning Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster and Zack Greinke have proved again (it seems) that the American League is a much tougher place to pitch than in the National League. Hiroki Kuroda has thrived in the American League. Kuroda has started twelve games against teams with a better than .500 record. In those games, he is 6-3 with a 2.44 ERA.

Is Kuroda better for the Yankees than he was for the Dodgers? The ERA is a little better. But the real answer is that he is exactly the same pitcher he was for the Dodgers. His career FIP is 3.58. His FIP this year is 3.71. His  career strikeouts per nine inning rate is 6.73. With the Yankees, that rate is 6.74. His career walks per nine rate is 2.09. This year, that rate is 2.05. His ground ball, swing and miss and O-swing rates are all in line with his career norms.  He is virtually the same pitcher as a Yankee that he was as a Dodger.

But his ERA, BABIP and winning percentage are all improved for the Yankees over his years with the Dodgers. Dare it be said that one of the differences has been defense? The Yankees’ defense is not the rangiest defense in the world. They are nineteenth in the majors among the thirty teams in defensive efficiency. But they are also fourth in fielding percentage. While the former statistic is given more credence these days than the latter, both are important in the long scheme of things. During his tenure with the Dodgers, a whopping thirteen percent of his runs allowed were unearned. A little less than seven percent of his runs have been unearned with the Yankees.

It also has to help that the Yankees have scored three or more runs in seventeen of his twenty-five outings compared to eighteen of his thirty-two outings with the Dodgers last season. The Yankees’ bullpen is much more efficient than the Dodgers were at preventing inherited runners from scoring as well.

The overall bottom line is that Hiroki Kuroda is exactly as advertised from his years in Los Angeles. He is the same pitcher performing at the same level. And that level has been more successful with an overall better team like the Yankees over his former team. He has been one of the only constants of the rotation all season. And with his current performance valuation of $15 million thus far after 25 starts, that $10 million investment the Yankees made on him looks like a winner.

William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.

15 thoughts on “Counting on Kuroda

  1. jay_robertson

    Gotta admit – I wasn't expecting a lot for him. Very Happy to be proven wrong – Mr K. looks like the best pitcher on our staff, afaic. CC has been winning, but he's looked far from being ace-like, and has benefited from good run support. Had Hiroki had the same support, he likely would have 2 or 3 more wins in his record.

    I was wrong. He's been Cashman's pickup of the year, in my opinion.

    • Tommy

      Agreed. I was quite skeptical. The only relief at that time was that the Yankees had about 6 possible starters. Then the season commenced, Pineda was no more, Nova/Hughes/Garcia have "Jekyll and Hyded" in A.J. like form, Andy was here and then gone after looking pretty swell, CC made his second DL trip, and throughout it all Kuroda has been a rock for the squad. I want to give credit to spot starters, I just cannot think that a Phelps/Lowe complete game combo was how Cashman drew it up at the beginning of the season. Overall, just very impressive in what is possibly a division-clinching effort from Hiroki.

  2. Let's hope he loves his time in NY and wants to do it again next year!

    • jay_robertson

      Assuming they get along, I'd sign Ichiro to a one year contract to keep him company.

      Even though expecting two guys to get along because they're countrymen is actually kind of ridiculous – just look at the boards here. No three Americans can agree on anything.

      • I'd keep Ichiro, too. I gotta believe he's having a ball in NY. maybe I'm just projecting, but it sure seems it. I know what he isn't, but I'm ok with what he is.

        • roadrider

          I'd keep Ichiro, too.

          And I wouldn't. A couple of good games does not erase the serious decline he's been in for the past two seasons and next year he'll only be older. Take a look at his overall numbers for the past two seasons. They're among the worst in MLB, not even adjusting for position.

          This is one of the reasons I did not like this trade. It's almost inevitable that people will confuse the Suzuki of the present with the player he used to be but isn't any more and never will be again. It's all because of his name and past deeds which cannot and should not be used to evaluate whether he should be retained in the future. Everyone seems so eager to dump guys like Swisher, Cano and Granderson because they will be due big paydays. Yet, those guys are far more productive than Suzuki and far more likely to help the Yankees win games than Suzuki will be.

          Retaining Suzuki beyond this season is simply a bad bet and a nice late-season run does nothing to change that.

          • Jacques

            I would keep Ichiro, if he was willing to come off the bench. I don't see anyone being a better defensive replacement and pinch runner/ hitter than Ichiro. But this is solely my wishful thinking

          • a57se

            I would keep Ichiro and get rid of Swisher. Ichiro is a better Right fielder and a MUCH better clutch hitter than swish……..granted he is 38 but the guy doesn't play like a 38 year old. Swisher has done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the post-season and unless a pitcher makes a mistake, the guy is an easy out.

  3. John

    Kuroda will probably want a multi year deal. Do you think the Yankees should give him 2 years? I say yes, but 3 or more years is probably a bit much at his age.

    My thought, 2 years 25 million.

    • He only wanted a one year deal this year. Maybe that's fine again?Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

      • jay_robertson

        I sure hope so. ;) With any luck, he's finding NYC sufficiently cosmopolitan to be happy.

        –and that IS a consideration. I was in Oz for two years; while I loved the country, I went TWO years with scarcely a decent burger. It was so bad, when they opened a Burger King on the Gold Coast, we drove two hours, just to get a Whopper.

        and sadly, that Whopper was the best burger I had in two years.

        Here's to Kuroda loving NYC and wanting to come back for ONE year. We can fit him into the budget for 2013.

        • John

          Here's hoping the Jay's are right.

  4. Tommy

    Can anyone find out the last year that a Yankee starter finished with a sub-3.00 ERA? Thank you in advance.

    • williamjtasker

      Andy Pettitte and David Cone in 1997. Minimum of twenty starts.

  5. Tommy

    Thank you. That's pretty wild.

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