We’re just eight games into the Hiroki Kuroda experience, but it has been a crazy ride that has more ups and downs than Coney Island’s Cyclone. In eight games, he has allowed two earned runs or less in four starts and, runs or more in three, and once he allowed three runs in 4.1 innings.
He’s been both very good and terribly bad, beating teams like the Texas Rangers while getting slapped around by the likes of the Twins. So it’s not exactly like the opponent matters in the result, a sign that this isn’t just the result of a move from the weaker hitting NL to the more powerful AL.
It could be a sign that he is just having a hard time with hitters that he is unfamiliar with, but Kuroda dismissed that idea and says he’s ready in his starts.
“I can’t make that as an excuse,” Kuroda told Chad Jennings of the Journal News. “I’ve been studying a lot of these hitters on video and talking a lot with the coaches. I can’t really make that an excuse, but hopefully I’ll start winning.”
A big part of the problem has been Kuroda’s command. Last season his K/9 was 7.17, this year that has dropped to 5.69. Meanwhile, his BB/9 has gone up a full walk per game, from 2.18 a year ago to 3.19 with the Yankees.
To top that off, balls are flying out of the park at a higher rate as well, from a HR/9 of 1.07 to 1.69 this season (it could be Yankee Stadium, but he’s actually given up more homers on the road). The fact that he’s actually giving up fewer fly balls is a sign that hitters are hitting the ball with more authority off him, not a good sign.
It’s going to be hard for the Yankees to deal with this if it keeps coming up. When he gets hit hard like he did on Wednesday night, the Yankees are more likely to need to burn through their bullpen and if that starts happening on a consistent basis it’ll come back to really bite them.
The Yankees got rid of A.J. Burnett because of these types of results. They are still paying him $11 million this season to play for the Pirates and gave Kuroda another $10 million to replace him. A sign of how maddening these results can be.