I Believe in Hiroki Kuroda

Nearly lost in the glee of sweeping the Phillies was yet another stellar performance from Hiroki Kuroda – just two hits and seven strikeouts over seven one-run innings. This makes three excellent starts in a row from Kuroda, three starts in a row where he’s given up just one run while going at least seven innings.
Of course, in the three starts before that, he gave up 6, 5, and 7 earned runs – twice not making it out of the 4th inning.
And in the three starts before that, he had three more excellent starts, giving up 3 earned runs over 22 2/3 innings, including a one-hit complete game shutout of Atlanta.
See where I’m going with this?
Let’s keep it going; what happened in the two starts before that? A complete game shutout followed by 6 earned runs and getting knocked out in the 3rd inning.
I’ve never seen a pitcher as schizophrenic as this before. When you get a guy who’s expected to be your 3rd or 4th starter, you expect a level of inconsistency. You don’t really ever hope to see dominating shutouts, but you hope to get innings and never have to dip into the bullpen in the 3rd inning. What you don’t expect are splits like this:
Kuroda in his 7 wins:
54 innings, 0.83 ERA, 38 K, 3 BB
(Walter Johnson + Cy Young + Secretariat + Michael Phelps)
Kuroda in his 8 losses:
39 innings, 7.38 ERA, 24 K, 18 BB
(Brett Tomko + well.. Brett Tomko)
I can already hear the complaints. “Hey genius, you’ve stumbled upon the fascinating discovery that pitchers generally perform better when they win than when they lose! Brilliant!” Hey you – shut up. It’s the amazing divergence between the two Kurodas that interests me. His ERA spread between his wins and losses is 6.55. That’s not inconsistency – that’s insanity. We’re not talking about a guy who’s relatively mediocre and on his good days gives you a decent chance to win and on his bad days gives you a lousy chance to win; we’re talking about a guy who could win with Little Leaguers behind him vs. a guy who couldn’t win with the 1927 Yankees on his side. Never seen anything like it.
On the plus side, you should usually know relatively quickly whether he’s got it or not, so the damage may be minimized with the bullpen on call.
* Let’s not get too worried about the rumors that Ron Belliard was claimed off of waivers. The reporters don’t seem to be able to get their stories straight, but this doesn’t really bother me too much. I really think Colletti just wanted to block Arizona from claiming him as a replacement for the injured Orlando Hudson – even though some writers have poo-pooed that as not making sense since Arizona didn’t claim him. LA obviously couldn’t have known that when they put their claim in. We discussed Belliard back in March as a possibility to plug the hole at third base, and we didn’t like it, partially because of his salary and partially because he’s not really a third baseman. Now, most of his 2008 salary has been paid, so that’s not an issue. I don’t really like Belliard, but this doesn’t bother me for two reasons:
1) He’s better than Pablo Ozuna. You have to figure that if Belliard is acquired, it’s to shore up the woeful infield backup corps current staffed by Ozuna and Berroa. Again, Belliard’s not great, but he does have an OPS+ better than league average 4 out of the last 5 years (including this year) and 6 years overall, which is something that Ozuna’s done once. If it’s a simple swap of those two, we come out ahead.
2) I doubt Belliard ever hits LA. He’s under contract for $1.9 million next year, so if Washington just wanted to get him off the books, they’d surrender the claim and he’d be a Dodger. The fact that this hasn’t happened means that either Washington wants some talent for him, or that LA really wasn’t interested and just wanted to block the D-Backs. Nothing to worry about here.
* Interested in what you’ll look like in one of those new Manny scullcap/dreads combination the Dodgers are selling? Phillies blog The Fightins’ – clearly not at all looking for revenge from just getting swept – points out just how ridiculous you can look while impressing your friends with not at all tired “Johnny Being Manny!” jokes. Assuming your name is Johnny, of course.
* If you don’t know the name James McDonald.. well, now you do. He’s not as highly touted as Clayton Kershaw – few are – but he’s been one of the better pitchers in the LA system over the last two seasons, and was recently promoted to AAA Las Vegas. Mariners blog Prospect Insider, unhappy over the barren state of the Seattle system, promoted McDonald’s start against AAA Tacoma as “This is What a Pitching Prospect Looks Like.” Good to see other organizations taking note of our less visible guys – and he backed it up, giving up only two hits and striking out ten over his six innings of work. Expect him to get a sniff of the bigs in September.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

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