Hiroki Kuroda Deserves a Better Fate for New York Yankees

Phil WatsonCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 25: Starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda #18 of the New York Yankees pitches during the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on August 25, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Consider these numbers on Hiroki Kuroda for a moment:

—An ERA of 2.98, currently good for sixth-best among American League qualifiers.

—Opponents are hitting .237 against him (ninth in the AL), with a .289 on-base percentage (seventh), a .381 slugging percentage (13th) and an OPS of .670 (eighth).

—His 18 quality starts is tied for fourth in the AL.

—With a WHIP of 1.10, he is seventh in the AL.

So given that impressive resume, one that may rank him with Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander, Tampa Bay Rays lefthander David Price, Seattle Mariner King Perfecto Felix Hernandez or the Chicago White Sox’ lefty-righty tandem of Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, how in the world is it that Kuroda has managed just a 12-9 record this season?

Well, that would be that—despite ranking fourth in all of baseball in runs—the New York Yankees don’t seem to be able to score that many of them when Kuroda starts. An offense that averages 4.85 runs per game seems to hibernate when the 37-year-old righthander takes the mound.

Kuroda has gotten 3.73 runs per start this season, more than a run below the team’s average output and the fifth-worst total among AL starters, trailing only Jeremy Hellickson of Tampa Bay (3.46), Kevin Millwood of Seattle (3.50), Verlander (3.50) and Dan Haren of the Los Angeles Angels (3.65).

Saturday night’s start at Cleveland was a classic example of the plight Kuroda has faced this season.

Despite allowing just four hits in eight innings, he was touched up for a three-run bomb in the first inning by the Indians’ Michael Brantley and that, as they say, was that.

The Yankees were shut down by Justin Masterson, who allowed just one run in the sixth inning, and the Indians snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 3-1 win.

It’s not the only hard-luck loss endured by Kuroda this season. Earlier this month, he allowed just one run over 6.1 innings to the Mariners and was tagged with the 1-0 loss. Despite allowing two runs over eight innings at Boston on July 29, Kuroda got a no-decision in a game the Yankees eventually lost 3-2.

Outside of his first two losses (8-6 at Tampa Bay on April 7 and 6-5 against the Minnesota Twins on April 18), the Yankees have scored only 11 runs in his other seven defeats.

He has been Mr. Hard Luck in the Bronx this season.       

Yet, despite it all, Kuroda has been the Yankees' most valuable starter this season. While CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova have spent time on the disabled list, Phil Hughes has continued to fight against inconsistency and Freddy Garcia has been awful, Kuroda has been the glue that has held the rotation together.

His 175 innings pitched leads the staff and his 6.7 innings per start trails only Sabathia’s 7.1 on the club.

If the Yankees are able to hold off the charging Rays down the stretch, Kuroda will deserve a lot of the credit for stabilizing the rotation.

With Kuroda set to become a free agent this offseason, Yankee fans should be hoping that Brian Cashman decides to bring Kuroda back for a second season in pinstripes.