Should Hiroki Kuroda be the number one starter in the Yankees’ 2013 rotation?


In the long-term no, but in the short-term, why not?

Hiroki Kuroda did in 2012 what not a lot of people expected of him. Coming from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Kuroda had been an NL pitcher for his professional MLB tenure and to be thrown into the division that is the AL East is not something one can easily tackle. Kuroda did though. Aside from the injured Andy Pettitte, Kuroda was easily the most consistent pitcher in the New York Yankees rotation this past season and who’s to say he won’t be again in 2013? 

Hiroki Kuroda probably had his best season in the MLB in 2012. (Image: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports)

What we saw out of the 16-game winner in 2012 was nothing short of brilliant. While Yankees’ fans, myself included, have been spoiled by the dominant efforts from CC Sabathia in previous years, 2012 was one season in which not Sabathia, but Kuroda emerged as the ace of the staff. It was an unusual thing for us Yankee fans to see someone other than Sabathia step forward and take over the rotation like Kuroda did. We’ve seen gallant efforts before from Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and even Pettitte throughout the past few seasons, but nothing compared to what we saw with Kuroda.

Hiroki, or Hirok for short as that’s what was trending on Twitter in October, will be 38 in February. You don’t see many, if any 38-year-olds being the front of the rotation unless of course your ace is R.A. Dickey. What Kuroda brings to New York is something that this pitching staff will have to learn in 2013 so that once he’s gone this rotation can still stay afloat. Kuroda has presented himself in a manner that is not only professional, but has maybe made him a short-time Yankee fan favorite.

Let’s face it, what we saw from Sabathia in 2012 was not bad; but it was very un-Sabathia like. Two trips to the disabled list alongside an increased ERA wasn’t something that really anyone was used to, especially when it concerned the big man. This isn’t to say CC was bad, he was actually really decent in most regards, and even better than 2011 in some categories, but something about Kuroda struck me more. Sabathia has always been noted as the Yankee “workhorse” and while he’s one of the few pitchers on the Yankees in the past few years that can proudly hold that title, he’s not alone with Kuroda around.

We as Yankee fans have wondered on whether or not we are beginning to see Sabathia’s regression. Hopefully 2012 was just one of those odd seasons in which Sabathia just had more downs than ups, but it’s hard to tell. With the way Kuroda pitched in 2012, he easily outperformed Sabathia, especially considering it just wasn’t his first time in the AL East, but the entirety of the AL at that.

Disregarding Kuroda’s September, he easily was the best pitcher on this staff. He helped the Yankees through some turbulent times in mid-July and even dazzled in the postseason against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers. A 3.32 ERA is nothing to scoff at for Kuroda, nor should his opponent’s .249 batting average be something to nitpick. Sure, he doesn’t strike out as many batters as Sabathia does, but really, does he need to? Strikeouts are nice, but just because a guy can strike out eight or nine batters a game doesn’t make him necessarily better than someone who strikeouts four or five. Yet again, Kuroda proves this to be true.

Should there be a concern over CC Sabathia’s 2012? (Image: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports)

Here’s just a comparative look at both Kuroda and Sabathia in 2012:

  • Kuroda: 16-11, 3.32 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 219.2 IP (33 games started), 167 K’s, 51 BB’s
  • Sabathia: 15-6, 3.38 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 200 IP (28 games started), 197 K’s, 44 BB’s

Now in reality, Kuroda won’t be the number one, Sabathia will. While I have no objections to this, making Kuroda the number one, even if for a short period of time, is some food for thought. Sabathia’s two stints on the DL this past season are rather concerning and the fact that he had elbow surgery not too long ago may play some skepticism into his 2013. However, Sabathia will hopefully continue to be the ace that we signed back in 2008. With Kuroda on his tail though, the number one spot in the rotation may not be set in stone just yet.