So, the Dodgers continue their topsy turvy season with a nice sweep of the Reds, who had won 6 straight games going into this series. It was the type of series the Dodgers needed and they got a stellar performance out of Hiroki Kuroda, who went 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, and 3 K. However, as the spotlight continues to shine on such people as Blake DeWitt and the rest of the kids, and rightfully so, you never hear too much about the success story that Kuroda has had since beginning his MLB career. In fact, I even argue that he’s been our ace up to this point.
Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: “Are you smoking crack, Vin?! How can you argue that he’s been our ace?! He only had 1 win before last night!”
Yes, that’s true, and it’s probably the reason why he’s not getting enough attention, but, as we’ve said like a mantra, W/L records do not tell the whole story and if the fact that Brad Penny ranks 1st on the team with 5 wins doesn’t convince you of that, nothing will. Having said that, let’s look at all of Hiroki’s 10 starts this season:
Note the amount of innings pitched. Outside of 2 starts, he has pitched into the 6th inning in every start and you could make an argument that last night, and in his debut, he could have very well had two complete games already, were it not for Joe Torre. To use a Morganism (Dear Lord, please forgive me, for I have sinned…), Kuroda has been really “consistent,” (hence why Thunder Thighs doesn’t get the “best Dodger pitcher of 2008″ nod… yet) and has been the lone pitcher that our bullpen probably actually likes, as they don’t have to enter the game in the 5th or 6th inning whenever he pitches. But he’s been more than just that; he ranks 1st amongst all Dodgers’ starters in ERA (3.48), ERA+ (124), WHIP (1.27), VORP (9.6), and quality starts (7). Now while comparing any good pitcher to the 2008 Dodger pitching staff is like saying “Vin Scully is a great broadcaster and I’m gonna prove it to you, dammit… now let’s compare him to Rex Hudler,” he has also held up with the rest of the NL, as well. Kuroda ranks a respectable 21st in the NL in ERA (Johan is 19th, by the way), as well as ranking 21st in WHIP. He ranks 6th in quality starts, and one of the more impressive things about Kuroda is how efficient he is with his pitches. Out of all NL pitchers who have put in at least 40 innings this year, Kuroda is the 11th most efficient pitcher, only surrendering 15.4 pitches an inning.
The point of this whole article? When you sign pitchers from other countries, there usually is a large risk and successes are more the exception than the rule. However, after the first month and a half, it’s safe to say that Kuroda has been a success, so far. He has been very good, going deep into games, not wasting any pitches, and keeping his team in the game better than any other Dodger pitcher. That’s not to say everything about his stat sheet is very good; I’d like to see some of the hits per game go down a smidge, but, then again, let’s remember, he’s being paid to be the #3/#4 in our rotation. Based on the numbers he has put up so far, he has more than exceeded expectations. With a pitching staff that has been either erratic (Billingsley) or just flat out awful (Penny, Lowe), Kuroda has been the one piece of stability that we have been able to count on at this point.
Well done, Hiroki!