Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Legend Of Big Hirok: Putting On Pinstripes

After four years of pitching in Los Angeles, Big Hirok became a free agent. He wanted to play for a contender and came to the big apple to pitch as a New York Yankee. Signing with the Bronx Bombers on a 1 year $10 million deal.

News of Kuroda signing with the New York Yankees was largely overshadowed by a trade the Yankees had conducted with the Seattle Mariners which sent then-top prospect Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to Seattle in exchange for budding ace Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.

While many were busy analyzing what Pineda would bring to the table long term, the fact that the Yankees had acquired Kuroda went somewhat unnoticed.


Those that did notice naturally had concerns. Kuroda had been pitching in the inferior National League in the mostly pitcher friendly confines of the National League West. Now he was moving into the best division in all of baseball where there wasn't an automatic out every eight batters and the stadiums are joke ballparks smaller.

Initially things did not go as well as Hirok and the Yankees would've liked. His Yankees debut did not go well and naturally the New York Media and the New York fans weren't pleased. His first half was a bit of a mess.

According to Kuroda himself, there was a point where he would've been worried for his life if his home in New York had had a veranda (which it didn't). After all we are dealing with New Yorkers.

However, as time went on the calendar turned to June, Kuroda started to turn into the starter everyone expected. According to Brooks baseball the release speed on his sinker started to go up from the 90-91 mph range to the 92-94 range. And the rest of his arsenal followed suit.


The game of baseball has always been a mental challenge as much as a physical one for Kuroda. In an interview Kuroda claimed that at the beginning of his Yankees tenure there was some teething troubles about adjusting to the AL East and that he wasn't exactly 100% confident. However he also stated that he took things one game at a time and as the season went on his state of mind changed to (to paraphrase) "This is going to be my last season/game/pitch, make it count."

With his #YOLO mentality motivating him and his velocity starting to tick up, he went on a tear and Hirok'd the AL.

Some notable moments from 2012 would be the game where he had 11 k's against the Chicago White Sox, the game where he threw a complete game shutout against the Texas Rangers, and the game where he held the Boston Red Sox to two runs in route to his 16th win of the season that also clinched the AL East for the Yankees.



Kuroda's 2012 was arguably his best season in the majors. He posted a career high 3.8 fWAR and pitched a career high 219.2 innings pitched.

According to Brooks Baseball he used his sinker 1428 times (more than any other pitch) and held opposing batters to a .273 batting average against and a .280 BABIP.

He used his slider the second most with 1071 sliders thrown and held opposing batters to a .228 batting average against and .289 BABIP suggesting that he may have been a tad lucky with his sliders.

His curveball appears to have gotten hit the hardest in 2012 (.438 BAA and .462 BABIP) which probably explains why he used it the least out of his pitches (he only used it 169 times).


All in all, Big Hirok laid any worries people had about him going from the NL West to the AL East to rest by the end of the season. He was arguably the Yankees' ace in 2012. Best of all, he would return for two more years on one year deals. A huge steal for the Yankees.

Hiroki Kuroda himself said that he chose to play for the Yankees and that he was going do everything he could to help his team win even in the most dire circumstances. In that respect Kuroda reflected on his 2012 season and considered it a success, and I do too.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Sources:
*http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/kurodhi01.shtml

*http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=3283&position=P

*http://www.brooksbaseball.net/landing.php?player=493133&b_hand=-1&gFilt=&pFilt=FA|SI|FC|CU|SL|CS|KN|CH|FS|SB&time=month&startDate=01/01/2012&endDate=01/01/2013&s_type=2

2 comments:

  1. I am a big fan of his. I really respect what he did in his time in MLB.

    I remember the night if the trade/signing very well. It was quite stealthy.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, it was one of Cashman's best maneuvers. He seemingly got quality starting pitching overnight.

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