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.