Archive for Hiroki Kuroda
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John asks: Looking ahead to next year (because that’s sort of all we have at this point) the Yankees clearly need another outfielder (or two). As such, being purely hypothetical here, would you rather have Curtis Granderson at 1/$14M, Carlos Beltran at 2/$30M or Shin-Soo Choo at 4/$60M?
Of those three choices, I’m definitely taking Granderson on a one-year, $14M deal. Beltran would be my second choice and Choo a distant third. Choo sure gets a lot of attention for an injury prone platoon player who isn’t all that good on defense, doesn’t he? He’s awesome against right-handed pitchers, among the best in the world, but there’s much more to life than that.
Anyway, Beltran is still a really good hitter, the the big drop in walk rate and overall rise in swing-and-miss rate are major red flags for a 36-year-old hitter. I’ve explained this before. Add in his injury history and the overall risk that comes with guys closer to 40 than 30, and I’m very skeptical about giving him a multi-year pact. I don’t think it would be a disaster if the Yankee signed Beltran to a two-year, $30M contract (that would be a nice raise from his current two-year, $26M deal), but it’s not a slam dunk at this point.
Granderson, even at a premium salary, on a one-year contract is a pretty great deal. All of his injuries this year were flukes, he’s shown his old power, and he’s not at the point where you’d expect him fall of a cliff at age 32 (33 in March). The Yankees have enough really old veteran players on multi-year pacts and I really don’t want to see them add another to the pile at this point. Granderson for one year limits the risk and gives them a productive player. He’s the lesser of three evils, in this scenario.
Nick asks: Suggested post (motivated mainly by Jon Morosi’s column): Hiroki Kuroda‘s chances of winning the Cy Young. Consider the contenders and say what Hiroki realistically needs to do between now and season end to be in with any kind of shot.
I looked at the AL Cy Young race a little more in depth at CBS last week, so I’ll point you to that rather than regurgitate it all here. Long story short: there are a lot of legitimate candidates in the AL but Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer stand out from the pack right now. Chris Sale deserves to be in that group as well, but he won’t get much love thanks to his crummy teammates.
Kuroda has the great 2.33 ERA and AL-best 174 ERA+, but his record (11-7) isn’t anything special, his strikeout rate (6.40 K/9 and 18.1 K%) is below-average, and his FIP (3.25) is very good but not on par with the other Cy Young candidates. To make a serious push for the award, pretty much one thing has to happen: the Yankees need to win his starts. A lot of them. He’ll have to maintain that ERA/FIP and finish the year with an 18-8 record or something to have a serious shot. That’s the easiest way to do it.
Even then, it’s probably not enough. Remember, for a Yankee to win a major award, they need to have an insanely great year that is far better than the other candidates. Think 2007 Alex Rodriguez. There’s definitely a Yankee bias at work in the voting. Kuroda’s been awesome, but his performance this year is still a notch between Felix, Scherzer, and Sale for me. Those guys have been outrageously good.
Brian asks: I saw a little blurb on MLBTR regarding Mike Trout and the Angels. Trout is obviously worth far more than his current league minimum contract, but if the Angels sit back and decide to continue to paying him league minimum, could Trout theoretically hold out like they do in football? Is there any baseball precedent to that?
There is no precedent for that in baseball as far as I know, certainly not recently. If he were the hold out, I imagine the team would suspend him without pay, which would do some damage to his image. It happens. At this point of his career, Trout is stuck making whatever the Angels are willing to pay him. Is it fair? Of course not. But that’s the salary system that was collectively bargained.
Trout has one more year at (or near) the league minimum before becoming eligible for arbitration, when he’ll at least have some say in his salary. He can’t become a free agent until after the 2017 campaign. I don’t know if Trout will hold enough of a grudge to pass on a long-term contract if the Halos make an offer, but it would surprise me. He’s already in nine-figure contract extension territory and that’s hard to pass up.
Rosco asks: I know a lot of people are praising MLB for suspending players for PEDs associated with the Miami clinic, but shouldn’t we worry that none of them tested positive? How many other players are using that we do not know about because it seems the testing systems has some holes?
That’s the part going completely unnoticed. Not a single player tested positive and a local newspaper in Miami managed to get wind of the scandal before the league. That’s the nature of the beast though, the drugs will always be ahead of the tests. There’s no doubt the recent suspensions send a strong message — we’re going to go to great lengths to find you if you’ve been cheating! — but that alone won’t be enough of a disincentive for many players. The only thing MLB can do is test and test, that’s all. Sports will never be completely clean.
Lee asks: I saw these stats on defensive shifts a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t seen any commentary on them anywhere, and would love to hear your thoughts. The Yankees are THIRD in the use of defensive shifts? Wow, I guess I’ve been so mesmerized by how bad their offense is that I didn’t notice! But even more incredible, ZERO runs saved???? That’s almost funny — they just can’t get anything right this year.
Yeah, the Yankees definitely seem to suck at shift. Anecdotally, they seem to pitch away from the situation quite a bit, meaning they pitch outside with soft stuff while playing the hitter to pull. That doesn’t make sense. The defense on the left side of the infield has been terrible pretty much all year, which is another factor. I give them credit for trying — it’s interesting that four of the top five shifting teams are from the AL East, no? — but I’m not sure they have the personnel to pull off some fancy shifts at this point. The infield defense is too immobile.
Via Mark Hale: Impending free agent Hiroki Kuroda is still undecided about his future beyond this season. “At this stage, I can’t imagine what I’m going to do until the season ends … Obviously it builds your confidence to have numbers like these, but at the same time, I have to finish the season and make sure I’m healthy enough to even think about making that decision,” said the right-hander.
Kuroda, 38, has been a legitimate ace this season, ranking second in the AL in ERA (2.33), first in ERA+ (172), eighth in FIP (3.25), seventh in fWAR (3.6), and third in bWAR (5.0). He’s signed one-year contracts in each of the last two winters citing the desire to have freedom to make a decision about his future after each season, though he refuted reports indicating he wanted to end his career back in Japan. “That has never been the case with what I’ve been thinking, but who knows?” he said.
Re-signing Kuroda will be a top priority for the Yankees this offseason, but given the club’s tiny playoff chances and even worse 2014 outlook, I think he will entertain offers from other teams with a better chance at immediate contention. He made it very clear he came (and returned) to New York because he wants to win. “My approach,” Kuroda added, “has always been if I get an offer from any team, no matter where they’re from, I will take that as seriously as possible and make a decision out of it.”
Only four questions this week, but they’re good ones. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us any questions throughout the week.
Jeff asks: Carlos Beltran is a free agent next year. While the Yankees do have an abundance of outfielders, you see any chance they try to pick him up?
Do the Yankees have an abundance of outfielders? They have a bunch of warm bodies, but how many are legitimate everyday or even (gasp!) above-average players? I think Brett Gardner is the only guy you can say that about with any certainty.
Anyway, Beltran makes sense for the Yankees next season just like he did nine years ago (before he signed with the Mets) and even two years ago (before he signed with the Cardinals). He’s hitting .309/.346/.533 (146 wRC+) with 19 homers for St. Louis this year, and he continues to be a true switch-hitter who hits both lefties and righties. Perhaps most importantly, he has managed to avoid the DL these last two seasons. That’s encouraging given his history of knee problems.
Beltran turned 36 in April, and there are two significant red flags in his performance. His walk rate (5.1%) is a career-low by far, dropping from 10.5% last year and his 10.5% career average. His swing-and-miss rate (9.2%) is essentially identical to last year (9.3%), which was his career-high. Beltran has a career 7.3% whiff rate and was at 6.6% as recently as 2011. Seeing an older hitter cut his walk rate in half with an increased swing-and-miss rate suggests he may be cheating and starting his bat a little earlier. That’s not uncommon for guys that age.
The Yankees could certainly use a switch-hitting power guy in the middle of the lineup, especially since they should shuffle him between right field and DH to keep his legs fresh. Beltran has made it very, very clear he wants to play for the Yankees in the past*, which could work in their favor if he’s willing to take a one-year deal. I don’t like the idea of a two-year contract at this point of his career, but there’s a definite fit at the right price.
* For what it’s worth, I think passing on Beltran prior to 2005 was the biggest blunder of the Brian Cashman era, especially after he came to the team at the last minute and was willing to sign at a relative discount.
Brian asks: If the Yankees wanted to, what should they get in return in a trade for Hiroki Kuroda? To me, it may be a great opportunity to get some quality prospects in exchange for a valuable commodity.
From what I can tell, the 38-year-old Kuroda does not have a no-trade clause. He had one last year for sure, but I can’t find anything indicating this year’s contract includes one. That seems kinda odd and I’m just going to assume he does have no-trade protection. Why would he demand one in 2012 but not 2013? Weird.
Anywho, Kuroda is pitching like an ace this year (2.65 ERA and 3.62 FIP) and getting him for the second half would be a huge help to some contender. Just imagine the Dodgers or Rangers or Diamondbacks or even the Red Sox getting their hands on him. Low maintenance, affordable, proven in a big market, everything you could want in a rental starter.
If the Yankees were to move him, I think they should seek a return on par with what the Brewers got for Zack Greinke last year. Kuroda now is better than Greinke was last year, though he’s much older and Greinke had more “name value” as a former Cy Young winner. The Angels gave up their number two (Jean Segura), four (Johnny Hellweg), and nine (Ariel Pena) prospects for Greinke, though only Segura was a top 100 guy (#55 by Baseball America).
That’s the framework I’d be looking for in return for Kuroda. A top-100 prospect who is big league ready — Segura stepped right into the Brewers’ lineup after the deal — and two other good but not great prospects. Kuroda has shown a willingness to use his no-trade clause however — he blocked deals to the Yankees and Red Sox while with the Dodgers in 2011 — so getting him to agree to a deal wouldn’t be easy even if the Bombers wanted to move him, which I doubt they do.
Kevin asks: Was Hiroki Kuroda an all-star snub? And does he have a legit shot at the Cy Young award?
Oh yes, he absolutely was an All-Star snub. During the All-Star lineup/starting pitcher press conference, Jim Leyland confirmed he took Chris Tillman (3.95 ERA and 4.95 FIP) over Kuroda because he had more wins (11-3 vs. 8-6). Kuroda ranks second in the AL in ERA, seventh in bWAR (3.2), and 11th in fWAR (2.3 WAR). Definitely a snub considering eleven (!) AL starting pitchers were named to the All-Star team, including the injury replacements.
The Cy Young award is tougher to defend. No AL pitcher is having an outrageous season that moves them to the front of the pack yet; instead there are a bunch of guys — specifically Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, and Chris Sale — who are simply having excellent seasons. For a Yankee to win a major award, he needs to blow everyone else out of the water and make it obvious like Alex Rodriguez in 2007. There is a voter bias against Yankees for sure, and that will work against Kuroda. He’d need a dynamite second half to make a serious run at the award, otherwise he’s a guy who will get a few fourth or fifth place votes at best.
Dan asks: With the Diamondbacks wanting bullpen help is there anything they’d give up that is valuable for Joba Chamberlain? Surely he’d fair better in the NL West.
The AL-to-NL switch isn’t as significant for relievers, who are much more likely to face a pinch-hitter than the opposing pitcher. The D’Backs have had some interest in Joba in the past, particularly during the rumored Dan Haren trade talks. That was back when Joba was, you know, good. Good and under control for a few more years.
These days Chamberlain is just a rental reclamation project reliever, which is nothing to get excited about. Brandon League was a Proven Closer™ having a good (but not great) year when he was traded at the deadline last year, and all he fetched was two non-top 30 prospects. Maybe Arizona would give up a failing former top prospect like RHP Anthony Meo (5.86 ERA and 6.06 FIP in 43 innings), a lottery ticket type. I wouldn’t expect much in return for Joba at this point, unless he’s like the second or third piece in a package deal. He won’t bring back much by himself.
No, it’s not the literal midway point of the season, but we’re going to use the four-day All-Star break to review the Yankees’ performance to date. We’re handing out letter grades this year, A through F. We start today with the A’s.
Let’s not kid ourselves here — not a whole lot has gone right for the Yankees this season. Not only have they dealt with a ton injuries, but they’ve also dealt with a ton of re-injuries as well. Mark Teixeira (wrist), Kevin Youkilis (back), Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand), and Derek Jeter (ankle, quad) all got hurt against almost immediately after coming off the DL. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
Despite all that, the Bombers sit seven games over .500 and just three games back of a playoff spot. They’re probably further back than they would like, but they are definitely still in the hunt despite all those injuries and re-injuries. The performance of the guys in this post is a big reason why. Here are the Grade A’s.
All of the injuries mean Cano has to be The Man, and that is exactly what he has been overall. Robbie is hitting .302/.386/.531 (143 wRC+) with 21 homers while starting every single game this year (91 of 95 at second base). He’s played 807.1 of 849.1 possible defensive innings (95.1%), which is nuts. Dude is an iron man. That offensive performance is right in line with what he’s done the last three years, and in fact his OBP is a career-high because he’s started taking walks when pitched around. Cano went through a stretch where he was flailing at pitcher’s pitches for a while. Thankfully that has ended. Robbie has been an absolute rock for the Yankees this season and deserves to be in the MVP conversation at this point.
Remember when there was concern about how Kuroda, an older pitcher coming from a big park in the NL to a small park in the AL, would transition to pinstripes? That seems silly now. Kuroda has pitched like a legitimate ace this year, posting a 2.65 ERA and 3.62 ERA FIP in 118.2 innings. Among qualified AL starters, he ranks second in ERA behind only Felix Hernandez (2.53). That’s pretty remarkable considering his home ballpark. Kuroda was a huge All-Star snub — seriously, they took Chris Tillman (!) before him — but I’m totally fine with him getting four days to recharge the batteries for the second half. The Yankees are going to need him. Kuroda has been brilliant since coming to New York and especially this year. What a stud.
Forty-three years old? Missed almost all of last season with a knee injury? No big deal. Rivera has been as good as ever in 2013, going 30-for-32 in save chances with a 1.83 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 34.1 innings. He’s actually giving up more hits than usual, but it seems like most have been weakly hit bloopers that just find some outfield grass. Hopefully his .333 BABIP returns to his .264 career average in the second half. The Yankees have relied on their pitching staff heavily this year, and Rivera has been there to shut the door and preserve every lead time after time. I can’t believe he’s retiring after this season; it looks like he could pitch forever.
Rivera can’t do it all himself, of course. Robertson continues to be elite as his setup man, pitching to a 2.11 ERA and 2.51 FIP in 38.1 innings. The control-challenged right-hander cut down on his walks in the second half last season and that has carried over to this year — his 2.82 BB/9 (8.0 BB%) is far better than his 4.10 BB/9 (10.8 BB%) career average. Robertson and Rivera are arguably the best setup-closer combination in baseball, and the Yankees are lucky to have such an elite end-game duo. They’ve leaned on these guys a ton this year and they continue to get the job done.
Yes, every manager makes questionable pitching changes and calls for weird double-steals from time to time. It comes with the territory. But think about the job Girardi has done controlling what could have been a very chaotic situation. Players are getting hurt seemingly non-stop and the Yankees have played just about .500 ball since the calendar flipped to May, but things around the team remain relatively calm and orderly. This season could have very easily spiraled out of control, but Girardi has prevented that from happening. He deserves a lot of credit and should get Manager of the Year consideration in a few months.
- Derek Jeter (ankle) is close to beginning a minor league rehab assignment. He continues to take simulated at-bats in Tampa, and he is running the bases after each one. The Yankees haven’t set a date for the rehab assignment yet, but Brian Cashman said “he’s doing real well. He’s really progressing well.”
- Curtis Granderson (hand) swung a pipe 20 times underwater. He has to progress to a short bat and a weighted short bat underwater before taking real live batting practice. So yeah, Granderson isn’t close to a return.
- Hiroki Kuroda (hip) will be re-evaluated by a doctor today. An MRI revealed no tear and the plan is to get him back into the rotation shortly. Ivan Nova is starting in Kuroda’s place tonight.
- Michael Pineda (shoulder) will make his final rehab start with Triple-A Scranton tomorrow. His 30-day rehab window expires on Monday and it seems likely the Yankees will option him to Triple-A for some more tune-up starts at that time.
- In case you missed it yesterday, Frankie Cervelli suffered a stress reaction in his elbow and has been shut down for at least two weeks. He isn’t expected to return until sometime in August now.
11:32pm: Kuroda has sore left hip flexor, Girardi announced after the game. He first felt a little tenderness warming up on Sunday. The MRI came back clean and Kuroda’s unlikely to go on the DL, but they will skip his next start as a precaution. Nova gets the ball on Friday.
10:17pm: Via David Waldstein: Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is back in New York having tests for a possible leg issue. He might not be able to make Friday’s scheduled start. Ivan Nova has been doing his usual between-starts stuff and is lined up for that game just in case. The team will provide more information after the game, so stay tuned for updates.
10:37pm: After the game, Joe Girardi said he would be “shocked” if Kuroda was unable to make his next start. They still need to see how he feels these next few days before finalizing any rotation plans.
9:07pm: Kuroda left the game with a bruised right calf, the team announced. No word on whether he’ll go for tests or anything like that, but this sure sounds like good news.
7:26pm: Hiroki Kuroda left tonight’s start in the third inning after taking a line drive to the right shin/calf in the second inning. The trainer came out to talk to him after the liner, but he threw a few warm-up pitches and remained in the game. After giving up some rockets in the third, Joe Girardi and the trainer came back out to the mound and removed him from the game. The YES cameras showed Kuroda grimacing a bit and favoring the leg. After what happened with Andy Pettitte last year, this is a fingers crossed moment. Stayed tuned for updates.
Hiroki Kuroda is currently scheduled to make his next start, manager Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon. The right-hander said he still has some soreness in his right middle finger and will know more about his status after throwing a bullpen tomorrow.
Kuroda took a line drive to the finger tips last night and left the game with a contusion, but post-game x-rays showed no broken bones. It’s just a bruise, which is why the team is optimistic he will be on the mound in Cleveland on Monday. It’s not set in stone, however.
10:50pm: “He’s okay. Bruised middle finger,” said Joe Girardi after the game. It’s still to early to know if he will make his next scheduled start, however. A bruise is good news.
8:28pm: Kuroda has a contusion on his finger and will go for x-rays tonight. So … continue to stay tuned for updates.
7:52pm: Hiroki Kuroda left tonight’s game after taking a line drive off his right finger tips. He threw some warm up pitches and remained in the game for a few batters, but he had no idea where the ball was going and it was obvious something was wrong. Stay tuned for updates.
Our season preview series continues this week with the starting rotation, though the format will change just slightly. Since there’s no clear starter/backup/depth lineage when it comes to starting pitchers, we’ll instead look at each type of pitcher — ace, number two, back-end, etc. — at different levels.
Number two starters don’t garner the attention of aces nor generate the same kind of rosterbation as back-end guys, but they’re obviously very important to a team’s success. The Yankees are lucky to have two pitchers who would qualify as a number two in most rotations, though the club figures to slot in a right-hander behind CC Sabathia to break up the lefties.
It’s funny to look back and remember that at this time last year, Hiroki Kuroda was considered a question mark. He was an older pitcher moving from a big park in the NL to a small park in the AL, and that is usually the recipe for a disaster. Instead, the 38-year-old right-hander was the team’s most consistently excellent starter from Opening Day through the postseason, pitching to a 3.32 ERA (3.86 FIP) in a career-high 219.2 innings. Kuroda liked his time in New York so much that he turned down more lucrative offers from other clubs this winter to take a one-year deal worth $15M from the Yankees.
Despite that performance, the combination of age and career-high workload — 236.2 innings between the regular season and postseason — make Kuroda a bit of a question mark going into the season. He battled fatigue last September, so much so that he had to stop throwing his regular between-starts bullpen to stay fresh. Kuroda modified his offseason routine in an effort to stay fresher later into the season, but it remains to be seen how much good that will actually do. Heck, it might even do bad for all we know.
One thing we do know is Kuroda is tough as nails — this story is still mind-blowing — and incredibly savvy on the mound. He battles every time out and his dud starts have nothing to do with a lack of effort of preparation. I do wonder how being away from Russell Martin will impact Kuroda — his worst full season in terms of ground ball and homer rate came the year Martin didn’t catch him, which could just be a coincidence but is obviously something no one wants to repeat — given all the time the two worked together both last year and with the Dodgers. There will have to be some adjustments there on both the pitcher’s and catcher’s part, hopefully a seamless one.
As was the case last summer, the Yankees are going to rely on Kuroda as their number two starter behind Sabathia and will expect the same kind of reliable, consistent performances. He’s a year older with a few more miles on the arm, but he’s not carrying those NL-to-AL, big park-to-small park transition questions. Frankly I think the transition stuff is a greater concern than age, but that’s just me. Kuroda’s smarts and deep arsenal make me feel really good about his chances to repeat last season’s success.
Knocking on the Door
Just like with the ace-caliber guys yesterday, the Yankees won’t have a projected future number two starter in Triple-A this summer. Left-hander Manny Banuelos would have been that guy had he not blown out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery, but he won’t be a factor until 2014 at the earliest. Then again, durability is one of the things keeping from that frontline starter ceiling. I guess that means if he was healthy, Banuelos wouldn’t have projected as a number two, but instead something more. Anyway, the Yankees definitely have some future number twos in the system, but none of them are in the upper minors. Bummer.
The Top Prospect
New York’s top number two starter prospect outside of the injured Banuelos is last summer’s first rounder, righty Ty Hensley. He ranked eighth on my preseason top 30 prospects list. The 19-year-old from Oklahoma has a dominant fastball-curveball mix and the size — listed at 6-foor-4 and 220 lbs. — that suggests future durability, but he lacks command and a third pitch. He needs the latter more than the former to reach his ceiling, both figuring out both in the next few seasons would give him true ace potential. For now he’s someone you close your eyes and see a future number two starter without having to try real hard.
The Deep Sleeper
I’m a big fan of right-hander Gio Gallegos, who didn’t crack my preseason top 30 but did make the not top 30 list as a prospect who could jump into next year’s top 30. His top atrribute is his command and control of a solid fastball-curveball mix, but he needs to work on his third pitch and show he can hold up while starting every five days across a full season. I might be stretching a bit with the “future number two starter” stuff here, but like I said, I’m a big fan of Gallegos. Forgive me for being a little extra optimistic.
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Kuroda is among the best number two starters in the game, a proven veteran with a great package of stuff, savvy, and command. His importance to the Yankees is easy to understate given the bigger names on the roster, but the club needs him to be as strong and reliable as he was a year ago. It’s imperative thanks to the depleted offense. The minor league system offers a few prospects who project as number two type starters down the road, but none at the upper levels of the minors or capable of making an immediate impact.