When the New York Yankees signed righthander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10-million deal on January 13th, it was largely ignored by the media and fans. This isn’t because it was an insignificant move per say, but rather because the signing was announced on the very same day that the Yankees acquired Michael Pineda from the Seattle Mariners along with prospect pitcher Jose Campos for hitting prospect Jesus Montero and righthander Hector Noesi. When Kuroda was talked about at that time, he was referred to secondarily to Pineda as the reason why the Yankees would undoubtedly dominate the American League East once again.
Then Pineda’s velocity waned and eventually it was found out that he would need season-ending shoulder surgery. Kuroda suddenly became the de-facto number two pitcher behind stalwart ace C.C. Sabathia, but many questioned whether or not the 37-year-old’s success with the Dodgers would translate to the significantly tougher AL East. At his advanced age, no one would flinch if quick and steady decline reared its unattractive head.
But that hasn’t happened.
With Pineda out for the year and Sabathia recently sent away for a brief DL stint to rectify a minor groin problem, Kuroda—for the next few weeks anyway—will be the best pitcher that the Yankees have on their roster. The crazy thing is, he’s actually pitching like he deserves that title.
Last night against the White Sox, Kuroda put forth his best start of the season, striking out 11 batters and inducing an unconscionable 21 swinging strikes. Despite being 37 and having pitched for about a billion years, Kuroda is still regularly hitting upwards of 94 miles per hour with his sinking fastball and has a swinging strike rate over 9% on the season.
On the season as a whole, Kuroda’s numbers have not regressed at all with the move to the AL. His 3.17 ERA, 3.83 xFIP and 2.58 K/BB ratio are all roughly in line with what he’s done since coming over from Japan in 2008. Perhaps most importantly, Kuroda has pitched at least six innings in 11 of his 16 starts and has pitched seven or more in six of his last seven. Over his last seven starts, he’s surrendered just nine earned runs and has 8.45 K/9 over that span.
The one-year deal given to Kuroda is looking like one of the biggest bargains handed out to anyone this past winter.
And the rest:
Speaking of that White Sox-Yankees tilt from yesterday, Kuroda’s opponent Jake Peavy—who recently lost his good friend Darrell Akerfelds, the Padres’ former bullpen coach, to pancreatic cancer—decided to donate $100 to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for every strikeout accumulated in Major League Baseball yesterday [Dayn Perry, CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball]. Not only was he pitching against the Yankees (he struck out 11 in an 8-inning complete game loss), but there was also 16 games yesterday due to the double header played between the Twins and Royals. In total, there were 241 strikeouts across MLB meaning that Peavy will donate $24,100.
The Yankees-White Sox game produced the most strikeouts with 24 between Peavy, Kuroda and David Robertson while the Brewers-Diamondbacks tilt—a game in which Milwaukee rookie Mike Fiers struck out 10 in six innings—had 23.
Things are not going well for Scott Rolen these days [John Fay, Cincinnati Enquirer]. Joey Votto also left yesterday’s game for the Reds with a knee issue. It’s not thought to be serious.
Matt Kemp expects to be reinstated from the DL following the All-Star break and should start a rehab assignment this coming week [Dylan Hernandez, LA Times].
Stephen Strasburg left his start yesterday in the fourth inning with heat-induced dehydration [Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider].
Carlos Lee has yet to decide if he’ll allow the Astros to trade him to the Dodgers [Brian McTaggart, Twitter]. Lee has a partial no-trade clause in his contract and has the right to veto a trade to LA. Although the move seems like a no-brainer for Lee, he’s comfortable in Houston and owns a nearby—and apparently very successful—cattle ranch.
R.J. Anderson and Kevin Goldstein analyze the Jim Thome trade and the Doumit signing [Baseball Prospectus].
Christina Kahrl tells us how Thome should help the Orioles [ESPN SweetSpot].
The always excellent Sam Miller takes a look at the best pitches from this past week [Baseball Prospectus].
Jason Heyward has seemingly adopted a controlled-aggressive approach and so far it’s working [Doug Clawson & Lee Singer, ESPN Stats & Info].
BREAKING NEWS: Jose Bautista doesn’t want the Jays to be sellers at this year’s deadline. Shocking, I know [Jon Paul Morosi, FOXSports.com].
Finally, isn’t Ken Rosenthal awesome? Here’s his latest Full Count video for FOX Sports.