So it’s only appropriate then that, with a division crown and the top seed in the A.L. playoffs within reach in the season’s final game, the Yankees are turning to Kuroda to bring home the bacon tonight. Kuroda hsa gotten some attention for having his performance “slip” over the last month or so, but those concerns are probably somewhat overblown. It’s true that he hasn’t gone more than 6.1 innings since the calendar turned to September and owns a 5.22 ERA and just one quality start in the month, but a lot of that is probably just noise to some extent. For one thing, only one of those starts (his second most recent outing against Oakland) could really be characterized as bad, while his other two most recent outings consist of keeping his team in the game for 5+ innings against Toronto (they went on to win 11-4), and striking out 10 Rays against just two walks back on September 16th.
If there is one thing to worry about with Kuroda, it’s his sudden Hughes-like predilection to giving up the long ball. Hiroku has given up at least one home run in each of his last eight starts, and nine out of his last 10. The last time he avoided giving up a big fly came all the way back on August 14th in his complete game, two hit gem against Texas. That said, the fact that his FIP of 4.32 is still better than the marks he put up in April and May, and not too much higher than his 3.90 mark for the full season. He isn’t pitching terribly, in other words, just not quite as well as he was over the summer, especially in June and July, when he registered FIPs of 2.44 and 3.27, respectively.
Of course, we’re to the point in the season when every game is largely an island unto itself, so past performance is no guarantee of future results. Still, Kuroda deserves a ton of recognition for what he’s done for the Yankees this season, and it’s borderline poetic that he’ll be the guy with the ball in his hand when the Yankees have a chance to wrap every thing up by their own doings.