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5 Reasons Hiroki Kuroda Will Be Just as Great for the Yankees in 2013 as 2012

Phil WatsonCorrespondent IJune 26, 2016

5 Reasons Hiroki Kuroda Will Be Just as Great for the Yankees in 2013 as 2012

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    The New York Yankees have agreed to terms with right-hander Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year deal, according to ESPN.com.

    Sources reportedly told ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney the deal is worth $15 million plus incentives. The incentives are said to be worth less than $1 million.

    The money makes sense; Kuroda had turned down the Yankees’ qualifying offer of $13.3 million on Nov. 9 and was said to be pondering a return to Japan.

    Looking forward, the deal brings New York’s most consistent starter back for 2013. Kuroda was 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in a career-high 219.2 innings.

    There is every reason to believe Kuroda will be just as good in 2013 as he was in his first season in pinstripes; five reasons to be exact.

1. He Got Better as the Season Progressed

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    For as good as Hiroki Kuroda’s numbers were in 2012, he got better later in the season.

    From May 27 on, Kuroda’s ERA was 2.92. That was the fourth-lowest in the American League over that span, trailing only Cy Young Award winner David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays, Matt Harrison of the Texas Rangers and Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers.

    That’s some pretty heady company.

    Kuroda tossed a seven-inning shutout at the Toronto Blue Jays in July and authored a masterful two-hit blanking of the Rangers in August.

2. He Knows How to Pitch at Yankee Stadium

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    Hiroki Kuroda posted a 2.72 ERA at home last season.

    Since the new stadium opened in 2009, that is the second-lowest seasonal ERA for any Yankee starter with at least 10 starts at home.

    Kuroda made 19 starts at Yankee Stadium this season and allowed only 105 hits in 132.1 innings. He held opponents to a .219 batting average at home.

    His road splits were actually much worse: 5-5 with a 4.23 ERA and 100 hits in 87.1 innings. Opponents hit .292 against Kuroda when he was in his road grays and he surrendered 13 home runs.

    Those are strange splits considering the perception of Yankee Stadium as a hitter’s paradise. In 45 more innings at home than on the road, Kuroda coughed up one less gopher ball—he allowed only 12 long balls at home.

3. He’s a Veteran Who Has Been Around the AL Once Now

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    Hiroki Kuroda was making the always-difficult transition from the National League to the American League, a transition that has swallowed up some pitchers.

    He made it look easy.

    His ERA jumped a bit, from 3.07 in his last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011, to 3.32 last season, but a quarter-run is not a huge increase when taking into account the designated hitter in the AL.

    His WHIP actually decreased from 1.21 to 1.17 after the change and his K/9 rate dipped only slightly. In 2011 with the Dodgers, Kuroda struck out 161 batters in 202 innings (7.17). In 2012, he fanned 167 hitters in 219.2 innings (6.84).

    Again, the change in K/9 rate could be easily accounted for when considering he made 32 of his 33 starts in AL parks with the DH in play.

    Having been around the American League for a year, one can expect Kuroda to have a better grasp of hitters around the circuit in 2013.

He Was the De Facto Ace of the Staff Last Year

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    Hiroki Kuroda was not supposed to be the ace of the staff in 2012; he was supposed to settle in as the No. 3 starter behind CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.

    But Sabathia made two trips to the disabled list and Pettitte was out for nearly three months after suffering a fractured ankle in late June.

    Kuroda didn’t miss a start and wound up leading the staff in starts, innings, complete games, shutouts and ERA.

    He may not have been the ace of the Yankees rotation on paper. But on the field, where it mattered, Kuroda was the most consistent starter in pinstripes for all of 2012.

5. If 2013 Is to Be Kuroda's Last Season in the U.S., He Wants to Finish Strong

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    It has been widely reported that Hiroki Kuroda wants to return to Japan and pitch.

    Kuroda turns 38 on Feb. 10. Next season will be his sixth in the U.S. and, based on his 2012 performance, he still has plenty left in the tank.

    His desire to return to Japan has been reported to be contingent upon being able to perform at a high level once he goes back to Japanese baseball.

    That was why a one-year deal was attractive to Kuroda; he’s sort of taking this expatriate thing one year at a time right now in order to ensure he has something left for the end of his career back home.

    There would be no greater incentive, then, than for Kuroda to have another dynamite season in the States. It would make him a more valuable commodity in his native league, thus allowing him to maximize his salary demands for his return.

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