Archive for HIROK

No matter his performance, Kuroda always displays an A+ pitchface. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Why did fans label Hiroki Kuroda as an inconsistent pitcher? Mike and I discussed this on The RAB Radio Show last week, but it bears further mention. It seems that after poor starts mixed with some very good ones, fans started to call Kuroda inconsistent. This persisted while his numbers and performances improved following his poor outing against the Twins, and it gained further steam with his implosion against Toronto. But perhaps inconsistent wasn’t the best term.

While Kuroda did turn in some phenomenal performances early on, overall he had not pitched that well. Though his first nine starts he threw just 53.1 innings, or a hair under six per start. In that time his ERA was a bit over 4.50, and opponents were hitting .281/.345/.481 off him. His strikeout rate was under 6 per nine, and he had a K/BB ratio of less than 2:1. Those are not the marks of a quality pitcher, never mind the guy expected to be the No. 2 for the Yankees.

In Oakland things started to turn around. On May 27th he pitched eight innings of shutout ball, leading the Yankees to a 2-0 victory. That might not seem like much, shutting out the A’s. Keep in mind, though, that they have scored more runs than any other AL team in June. So Kuroda got to them just as they were heating up. After that he turned in another three excellent starts before giving up four runs against the Braves — the first time he’d done that in over a month. Last night he redeemed himself, though, allowing just one run in seven innings against the Indians.

In the last month Kuroda has started six times, averaging seven innings per start. He has struck out 7.5 per nine and has a K/BB ratio of 3.5:1. His ERA is just 1.93, and opponents have a .589 OPS against him. That is, they’ve gone from being nine Mike Moustakases to being nine Sean Rodriguezes. Might the first nine starts of his season been an introduction to the American League, and we’ll start to see more of this Kuroda in the future?

While I’d love to believe that, there are problems with that statement. He has, for instance, faced two National League teams during that span, covering three games. They weren’t bad NL teams, not at all — the Braves rank third in runs per game and sixth in OPS, while the Mets rank fifth in runs per game and eighth in OPS. But the competition is simply different, as evidenced by the AL’s dominance over the NL in interleague play (142-110). At the same time, the Indians rank 11th in the AL in OPS, while the A’s, while hot in June, rank dead last.

The last month has certainly been a revelation for Kuroda. He is a big reason why the Yankees have gone 17-5 in June. Going forward, though, it’s tough to expect such stellar performances. That’s a pretty obvious statement, of course, since few pitchers today can sustain a 1.93 ERA. Unfortunately, any dip from here could again raise the accusations of inconsistency. It’s not that, though. Every pitcher goes through stretches. The only real complaints about Kuroda will come when the bad stretches start to outweigh the good.

Categories : Pitching
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Monday night’s game against the Indians was just one of those wonderful games. It was clear from the first inning that the Yankees were going to win, as they built up a sizable early lead and had a veteran pitcher on the mound who worked quickly, threw strikes, and simply got outs. The 7-1 win was their third straight win, 13th in the last 16 games, and 23rd in the last 30 games.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Too Many Homers

I mentioned in the series preview that right-hander Josh Tomlin was a great matchup for the Yankees because he doesn’t miss bats and will allow hitters to put the ball in play in the air, and sure enough that carried over into the game. New York bombed the Cleveland starter for three homers in three innings, including one by Dewayne Wise of all people. It was the 23rd homer of his ten-year career. Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher also went back-to-back, plus Mark Teixeira hit a rocket single off the top of the wall and Robbie laced a two-run double in the first. They were all over Tomlin, who threw 80 pitches and got five swings and misses. The Yankees fouled off 23 of his offerings. Just nuts.

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Hirokidoke

You can’t pitch much better than Hiroki Kuroda did on Monday night. He allowed just one run on five hits in seven innings, and two of those hits came leading off the eighth. The run scored after he had been removed from the game. Kuroda struck out seven, walked two, and recorded 19 of his 21 outs on the infield. He allowed just two base-runners to make it as far as second base in the first seven innings. Hiroki dominated with his split-finger, throwing it 16 times out of his 103 pitches (15.5%) and using it to get the strike three six of seven times. Cleveland hitters swung and missed a dozen times, his third highest whiff total of the season. Like I said, it was a veteran pitcher with a big lead. Kuroda just flat out took care of business against the Tribe.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Swisher had himself an eventful evening, hitting the homer, striking out three times — Paul O’Neill called it a “Reggie Jackson game” at the plate — in addition to making a trio of nice plays in the eighth. The first was a sliding grab in front of him, the second a running catch to his right, the third a running catch to his left near the foul line. Swisher was all smiles and he fist bumped some police officers on his way back to dugout. The purist must have been livid. It was awesome.

In addition to the two-run homer, Wise also tripled even though the replay showed he was tagged out at third. The ump said he was safe though, and that’s all that counts. I guess you could say that playing him tonight was … a wise move. /shades /yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah

Every starter reached base at least once — including Chris Stewart, who was hit by a pitch — while Cano (homer and double), Eric Chavez (single and walk), and Wise (homer and triple) each reached twice. Teixeira had the long single and also took a pitch to the right hand, but he remained in the game and appears to be fine.

Clay Rapada and Freddy Garcia retired all six men they faced, though Rapada needed some help from Swisher in that eighth inning. He faced two right-handed batters, so it’s not a surprise he needed a little backup from his defense. The key late-inning arms got a much needed rest after working hard over the weekend.

MLB.com won’t let me embed it, but here’s the video for Monday’s HOPE Week event. The Yankees visited the Flying Manes, a therapeutic horse riding project in the Bronx designed to help disabled children. As you’d expect, it absolutely fantastic. HOPE Week the best week.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Nice and easy. Needed one of these. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. At 44-28, your New York Yankees own the best record in baseball.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees and Indians will play game two of this three-game set on Tuesday night, when Phil Hughes and his doppelganger Justin Masterson square off. RAB Tickets can help get you in the building if you want to head up to the Bronx.

Categories : Game Stories
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Source: FanGraphs

One day after failing to complete a sweep of the Rays, the Yankees got right back on the horse and blew out the Mets in the first game of the 2012 Subway Series. The win was their fourth in the last five games, the sixth in the last eight games, and 11th in the last 15 games. Let’s recap…

  • Cano-han: Robinson Cano put any thoughts of back-to-back no-hitters for Johan Santana to bed pretty quickly. He jumped all over the first pitch he saw for a two-run homers in the second, then followed it up with another first pitch, two-run dinger the very next inning. Alex Rodriguez (walk and single) was on base for both. Those are only Cano’s second and third homers off a southpaw this season, but he has plenty of time to hit a few more.
  • Back-to-Back-to-Back: A pair of two-run homers from Robbie wasn’t enough. Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones followed up Cano’s third inning blast with solo shots of their own for New York’s first set of back-to-back-to-back homers since last August. Coincidentally enough, it was those same three players in that same order that time as well. Pretty neat. The four dingers made it six-zip Yankees before Johan was able to get his ninth out.
  • My Kuroda: Of course, it didn’t matter how many runs the offense piled on because Hiroki Kuroda gave the Mets nothing. He took a no-hitter into the sixth and it would have been a perfect game had Derek Jeter not booted a routine grounder in the fourth. Kuroda struck out seven and got 18 of his 21 outs on the infield because he was unpredictable — threw at least 14 four-seamers, sinkers, sliders, and splitters with some curves mixed in (Brooks) — and only threw three of his 91 pitches from the stretch. Three! The only reason Kuroda was unable to go the distance was because he took a comebacker off his left foot in the seventh, but thankfully x-rays were negative. Following an rocky start to the season, he’s now allowed two earned runs or less in seven of his last nine starts. Well done, Hiroki-san.
  • Leftovers: Ryota Igarashi made his Yankees debut in the ninth and became the 113th player to play for both modern New York teams, though he ruined the one-hit shutout by allowing an RBI double to Lucas Duda … believe it or not, the Yankees got two consecutive hits with runners in scoring position (2-for-6 overall) to widen the lead in the seventh … everyone in the starting lineup had a hit except for Jeter and Curtis Granderson, the guys who are supposed to set the table … the four through nine hitters went a combined 9-for-17 with four homers, two doubles, and four walks … Granderson was replaced by Dewayne Wise in the eighth inning of the blowout after playing every inning of every game this season.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees and Rays are tied in the loss column atop the AL East, though the Bombers have a sizable advantage in run differential (+37 to +16). Phil Hughes and Dillon Gee will square off in game two of this three-game set, a Saturday night game that will be broadcast on FOX. If you want to head up to Bronx to catch the game, check out RAB Tickets.

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Source: FanGraphs

For the first time this season, the Yankees have won five games in a row. They finished up a three-game sweep of the Athletics with a 2-0 win on Sunday and are now just two back of first place in the AL East in the loss column. Let’s recap…

  • My Kuroda: Bartolo Colon threw a complete game shutout in Oakland on Memorial Day last season, and Hiroki Kuroda nearly matched him on Sunday. He threw eight shutout innings (104 pitches) on Memorial Day eve, allowing just four singles and one walk. Things got a little hairy with men on corners and one out in the seven, but Kuroda escaped the jam (strikeout, fly out) and didn’t face another stressful situation all afternoon. I know the Athletics can’t hit, but a great start is a great start. Go Hiroki.
  • Andruw & Tex: The Yankees only needed one run but got two. Andruw Jones launched a mammoth homer to left-center on the first pitch of the second inning, then Mark Teixeira doubled in Curtis Granderson from first for an insurance run in the seventh. It was Teixeira’s second double of the afternoon and his seventh extra-base hit in the last six games. He’s suddenly hitting .254/.312/.467 on the season, and that ain’t half bad.
  • RISPFAIL: Despite the win, the Yankees went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and couldn’t push a run across despite having the bases loaded with one out in the first. Five of the first eight hitters they sent to the plate reached base, but just five of the final 29 reached after that. Everyone in the starting lineup had exactly one hit except for Teixeira (two doubles), Robinson Cano (a walk), and Chris Stewart (nothing). Granderson drew a walk in addition to his single.
  • Leftovers: Rafael Soriano struck out two in a scoreless ninth for the save, but we’re still awaiting that first 1-2-3 inning of the season … Teixeira turned a sweet 3-6 double play following a leadoff single in the fifth … Andruw was left in to face a righty in the late innings, so it’s not just Raul Ibanez being left in to face lefties. Both platoon DHs are being left in the game to face pitchers of the same hand in the late innings. In a two-run game, I think you’ve got to give Raul a chance to run into one in that spot.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are headed down to Anaheim for a three-game set with the Angels starting Monday night, when Phil Hughes matches up against Jered Weaver.

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The afternoon started with Jorge Posada throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and ended with the Yankees celebrating a 5-0 win over the Angels.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Two-Out Rally

The Yankees scored 29 runs in their first six games of the season, and more than half (15) of them came with two outs. They continued that trend in the very first inning on Friday even though Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson struck out to open the frame. New three-hole hitter Alex Rodriguez got the whole thing started with a single to left field, his first of three hits. Ervin Santana lost the strike zone after that, throwing balls with eight of his next nine pitches — all fastballs. Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira had walked to load the bases with two outs.

Nick Swisher was the hero on Wednesday night, clubbing that two-run homer in the tenth inning to sink the Orioles. After Santana fell behind in the count 2-0 and then 2-1, Swisher sat on a fastball and turned a 96 mph offering around for a double into the right-center field gap and over Peter Bourjos’ head. All three runners came around to score, giving the Yankees and Hiroki Kuroda some breathing room in the early going. Swisher has driven in nine of the team’s 34 runs this season.

HIROK. (Photo courtesy of Nick Koutoufas)

We Will Hirok You

After struggling through 5.2 IP against the Rays last Saturday, Kuroda had to answer questions and deal with speculation about his ability to make the transition from the NL to the AL. He answered every one of those questions against the Angels, for at least one day. Kuroda held the Halos to just five singles and two walks in eight shutout innings, allowing just two batters to reach second base and none to reach third. Nine of 29 batters hit the ball out of the infield. Nine.

Kuroda has a reputation of being a pitch-efficient guy, and he certainly lived up to the billing. He threw a first pitch strike to 19 batters and only once — the first inning — did he throw more than 15 pitches in an inning. Hiroki retired the side on a dozen pitches or fewer in half of his eight innings, and only three of those 29 batters managed to work a three-ball count. He threw first pitch breaking balls for strikes and was able to command his fastball much better than he did against the Rays. Only 52 of his 109 pitches were fastballs, the rest were all offspeed — changeups, breaking balls, splitters.

The Yankees can’t expect Kuroda to be this good every time out, but this is the guy they expected to see when they agreed to sign him three months ago — efficient, mixing his pitches, keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate. Outside of the first inning, when Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales batted with a man on second base, Hiroki was under no stress whatsoever. He retired ten of the last eleven men he faced, the one exception being Bobby Abreu’s infield single to open the ninth. Kuroda walked off the mound to standing ovation, and he deserved every bit of it. Just a marvelous performance in the home opener, his first career game in the Bronx.

A-Rod Makes History

With just four hits in the first six games of the season, A-Rod traded lineup spots with Cano and responded with a 3-for-4 game. His second hit was his first homer of the season, a first pitch fastball from Santana that Alex muscled out to dead center and into Monument Park. It was the 630th homer of his career, tying him with former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth on the all-time list. Next up is Willie Mays at 660, at which point A-Rod will start to earn those $6M bonuses in his contract.

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Leftovers

It was a very hot-and-cold day for Granderson. Santana struck him out on eight total pitches in his first two at-bats — including five swings and misses against the same down-and-in slider — before Curtis returned the favor and homered to right in his third trip to the plate. It was a total Yankee Stadium cheapie, a line drive maybe one row back. Granderson then struck out against Jason Isringhausen in his fourth at-bat. Of his six hits this year, four have gone for extra bases.

For only the second time this season, Jeter did not lead the game off with a hit. He did double later in the game. Swisher had a single in addition to that first inning double, and Russell Martin singled as well. Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Brett Gardner each drew a walk while Raul Ibanez was the only starter not to reach base. A-Rod and Martin each stole a base while Gardner got picked off first. The replay showed he was probably safe, though it was definitely bang-bang.

David Robertson replaced Kuroda after Abreu’s swinging bunt single in the ninth, and he had what will probably be his easiest outing of the season. He got Pujols to ground into a double play on the second pitch before striking out Morales. Eight pitches, six strikes, game over.

Kuroda became the first Yankee to throw eight scoreless innings in his Yankee Stadium debut since Bob Shirley back in 1983. Javy Vazquez came close, he allowed one run in eight innings in his Bronx debut.

There is a special place in hell reserved for whoever came up with the promotion campaign for the Three Stooges movie. That might be the most annoying ad campaign since Frank Caliendo’s … thing a few years ago.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

Game two of the three-game series will be played Saturday afternoon. Phil Hughes will look to actually complete five innings or work and possibly more in his second start of the season. C.J. Wilson goes for the Halos. RAB Tickets can help get you in the door if you want to attend.

Categories : Game Stories
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Feb
14

Getting to know Hiroki Kuroda

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In just a few days, Hiroki Kuroda will show up to camp, along with the rest of the Yankees’ pitchers and catchers. Surely a number of writers will introduce us to the team’s only big free agent signing this winter. You can get a head start on that, though. Genuine Good Guy Alex Belth penned a phenomenal profile of Kuroda at Bronx Banter. It really covers his character more than his baseball abilities. Looking for analysis with more of a statistical bent? William Juliano follows up with an analytical look at Kuroda. Both will get you up to speed with Kuroda before he even reports.

Categories : Asides
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Jan
17

The Other Guy

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Splitter! (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

It’s not often that a team can sign a starting pitcher to an eight-figure contract and have it be only the second biggest move of the day. That’s exactly what happened last Friday, and the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade continues to overshadow the Hiroki Kuroda signing. The one-year, $10M deal will become official as soon as Kuroda takes and passes his physical, something that is expected to happen in the near future and without a problem.

As exciting as Pineda is, the Yankees needed a veteran guy to help stabilize a rotation that was shaky beyond CC Sabathia. Ivan Nova pitched very well in the second half last year but is still a guy with one big league season under his belt like Pineda. Freddy Garcia was solid as well in 2011, but his kitchen sink act could blow up at any moment. A.J. Burnett is a known quantity, and unfortunately that means he’s going to be below average. Phil Hughes is a total enigma. Kuroda helps provide that stability at a reasonable price.

It’s no secret that the Yankees have liked Kuroda for quite some time, dating back to the August waiver trade period in 2010. They reportedly considered him the second best pitcher on the free agent market last winter, but didn’t get a chance to pursue him because he re-upped with the Dodgers during the exclusive negotiating period. They made a push for Kuroda at last year’s trade deadline but couldn’t work out an agreement, but it wouldn’t have mattered since he invoked his no-trade clause and refused to come east and pitch for the Red Sox. Once the Dodgers pushed him out of the picture this offseason, he changed his mind and came the New York.

Kuroda will turn 37 next month, and he’s thrown at least 180 IP in three of his four seasons in MLB. The one exception was 2009, when an oblique strain shelved him for two months and a concussion (caused by this) cost him for another three weeks. In the two years since, he’s made 63 starts and thrown 398.1 IP. There’s little chance Kuroda will repeat the 3.23 ERA and 3.52 FIP he posted from 2010-2011 given the shift to the tougher ballpark in the tougher division, but adjusting upward half-a-run or so still gives us a ~3.80 ERA, ~4.00 FIP pitcher. Not an ace, but a valuable starter.

The transition to Yankee Stadium and the AL East is a very real issue, but it should help that Kuroda will be throwing to a catcher who knows him well. Russell Martin caught 71.8% of the right-hander’s innings while with the Dodgers from 2008-2010, so there’s certainly some familiarity there. As a true four-pitch guy — low-90′s four-seamer, low-90′s sinker, mid-80′s slider, mid-80′s splitter and a show-me high-70′s curve — with a bit of a reputation for pitching backwards, I’m sure he’ll appreciate having someone behind the plate that knows his stuff and what he likes to throw to certain hitters in certain counts. I don’t know how much it’ll help, but I have a hard time believing it won’t help in some way.

The trade for Pineda is a long-term move. The Yankees acquired him in hopes that he will contribute something now and develop into a dominant, top of the rotation starter down the road. Kuroda is just a band-aid, a short-term solution on a reasonable contract designed to improve the team’s chances of winning in 2012 and nothing more. He’s been successful during his first four years in MLB as a moderate strikeout (6.73 K/9 and 18.0 K%), low walk (2.10 K/9 and 5.6 BB%), and above-average ground ball (48.6%) pitcher, which is all the Yankees are asking him to be again next year. Kuroda won’t garner as much attention as Pineda, but he’s more important to the 2012 team.

Categories : Players
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(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Rotation problem? What rotation problem? Less than an hour after acquiring Michael Pineda from the Mariners, the Yankees agreed to sign Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth $10M according to Jack Curry and Joel Sherman. The right-hander still has to pass his physical, and Buster Olney says Hal Steinbrenner approved an expanded budget to sign him. The Yankees will not have to give up a draft pick.

I, and really all of us at RAB are Kuroda fans and have been pining for him this offseason, so it goes without saying that we like the contract. Kuroda isn’t a star but he’s a rock solid veteran pitcher that will give the team innings and a chance to win basically every time out. He misses bats (7.23 K/9 and 19.4 K% last two years), limits walks (2.19 BB/9 and 5.9 BB%), and gets ground balls (47.1%), so he does everything someone needs to do to succeed in a tough environment.

It’s worth noting that Russell Martin knows Kuroda from his Dodgers days, so that should help the right-hander with the adjustment to the new league, the tougher ballpark, basically everything. Also, the Yankees recently hired Kenji Nimura, who was Kuroda’s translator with the Dodgers (caption of picture #10). He’ll have a similar role here, so that should help as well. Apparently he speaks fluent Spanish and Japanese, so I doubt he was brought in specifically for Kuroda, especially since the hiring occurred earlier this offseason.

It sounds crazy given where they were a few hours ago, but the Yankees now actually have a ton of pitching depth. Pineda and Kuroda will join CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova in the rotation, leaving A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia, and Phil Hughes to duke it out for the fifth starter’s spot. A trade is always possible, but pitching depth is never a bad thing.

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