After a rough start last Saturday, in which he gave up 6 runs (4 earned), 4 walks, and only 2 strikeouts, Hiroki Kuroda showed Yankees fans in person why he was worth the $10 million he’s getting paid this season. Against the Angels on Friday, Kuroda threw 8 quality innings, allowing only 5 hits while striking out 6 and walking 2. He may have even pitched the whole game if not for a leadoff infield hit to Abreu in the 9th.
Kuroda relied on his off-speed pitches in the game, throwing his slider (35) and curveball (14) almost as much as his sinker (37) and fastball (15). In his first start, Kuroda threw a much higher percentage of fastballs and sinkers, and the offspeed pitches he did throw were only strikes half of the time. Today, however, his sliders and curves fell in at around 65% of the time, leading to fewer walks and more strikeouts. This more diverse set of pitches kept hitters off balance all night, as Kuroda allowed no homeruns, and four of the five hits he gave up – all singles – were groundballs. This is a great sign for Kuroda, who saw his groundball rate drop significantly last year and who must keep balls on the ground to succeed in homer-friendly Yankee Stadium.
Kuroda’s start on Friday was encouraging to say the least after his rough Yankees debut, but to maintain the success he has experienced in his career, he needs to continue pounding the strikezone with a wide variety of pitches, keeping the ball on the ground and avoiding walks. Don’t expect shutout performances from him every night, but if he can continue performing like he did on Friday, he should be tremendously valuable as a #2 starter.
Stats via BrooksBaseball.net and FanGraphs.com