Watching Hiroki Kuroda instills some confidence in me. Why that is, I don’t know, but just know that it does. I think it has something to do with the consistency he brings. He surely doesn’t have the most electric arm in the league, let alone on the Yankees, but he has located effectively and pitched away from big innings. He is the exact opposite of A.J. Burnett and that is good news, however, there’s been some cause for concern.
Kuroda’s been fairly solid, not a number two arm solid, but in five of his eight starts he hasn’t given up more than four runs. Now that’s not fantastic by any means, but it’s the type of consistency only CC and Nova have matched. His ground ball percentage for 2012 is exactly in line with his career numbers at 48.6 percent. His fly ball percentage is down about two percent from his career average of 31.9 percent. We can expect these numbers to roughly stay the same as he’s shown four different pitches this year and a propensity, for the most part, to throw them down in the zone. Unsurprisingly, some issues have come up this year. Some of these things Kuroda can improve upon and some are great cause for concern.
Kuroda has thrown very well against average or struggling offenses. His best outing was against the Angels, where he went eight innings giving up only five hits and zero runs. His next best outings came against the Orioles and Mariners where he allowed two earned runs in each start while going 7 strong. It is very positive that he is taking care of the teams he needs to, however, his worst outings came against Tampa Bay, Minnesota (yikes), and last night against the Blue Jays. The problem in each of these starts: The long ball.
Kuroda’s numbers in home run per fly ball, home run per nine innings pitched, and walks per nine are drastically higher than his career numbers. This is understandable as he’s only had eight starts and given up nine home runs, but the most unsettling number is his 4.77 FIP. While his ERA sits at 3.65 (before the Blue Jays start) his FIP is the tell-tale sign of bad things to come. His BABIP sits at .279, and that’s about average, meaning Kuroda has pitched worse than his numbers suggest he has.
Now that all the doom and gloom is out of the way, remember that Hiroki Kuroda will still have at least 23-30 more starts during which he can make adjustments, and there’s plenty of time for him to get some favorable matchups along the way. He’s been about average, and definitely not what you’d like in a number two starter, but he’s taken the load off the bullpen and gotten some great starts as well. The Yankees cannot afford many more outings where he gives up more than four runs though. He must pitch better and stop taking the team out of games because the Yankees need him to be what he is: a number two starter.