If you haven't posted your thoughts for the following Dodger projections, take a moment to participate by clicking on the True Blue Community Projections and let us know what you think the future holds for 2009.
Hiroki Kuroda came into 2008 with great fanfare after being signed out of Japan to a three year deal, but Andrew was less then impressed with the signing at the time. Eric Stephen did some research and as a precursor to his writing for True Blue stepped in at Dodger Thoughts and delivered this write up on the expectations of the 4th starter. Buried at the bottom of that writeup was some information gleaned by commentator Nate Purcell that Kuroda might have very favorable groundball rates and our optimism for Kuroda gained some momentum. This turned out to be true as Kuroda had a 51% groundball rate in 2008.
This was Kuroda's community projection last season
This is what he did. 3.73 / 1.26
He had a solid April, good May, was crushed in early June and then did not pitch from June 12th until July 2nd. When he came back he pitched two of his best games of the year back to back including a one hitter on July 7th that may have taxed his arm because he followed those two gems with four terrible games in a row capping it off with his worse game of the year on July 28th when he gave up nine hits, and seven runs in only 3 innings. Things were looking bleak for Kuroda and the Dodgers at the time.His ERA had ballooned to 4.40 and the contract was looking very much like Andrew predicted. However something changed. Whatever got into Ethier got into Kuroda at the exact same time and from that point on Kuroda was a marvel giving up one run or less in 6 of his next 11 starts.
He then carried that over into the post season and won both his starts posting a solid 1.46 ERA. As we head into 2009 Kuroda seems to be flying under the radar. Let's see what the pundits think:
3/4/2009 - Kuroda working his way back...Hiroki Kuroda (RHP, LAD) decided against pitching in the WBC because of a lingering sore shoulder. Kuroda still pitched two scoreless innings in his spring training debut on Sunday. Assuming good health, what are Kuroda's prospects for 2009?2008 IP ERA xERA Ctl Dom Cmd H% S% BPV
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April 30 3.82 4.94 2.3 4.7 2.0 31% 75% 36
May 37 2.87 4.82 3.1 5.0 1.6 27% 77% 42
June 14 7.71 4.39 3.9 8.4 2.2 31% 56% 66
July 34 5.24 3.71 1.0 5.0 4.8 33% 55% 108
August 39 2.29 3.31 1.4 6.6 4.8 23% 73% 137
September 27 2.96 4.02 1.6 5.9 3.6 34% 78% 84
Season 183 3.73 4.14 2.1 5.7 2.8 30% 70% 70
After a long career in Japan, Kuroda's first year in the majors was a success despite some bumps in the road. After a slow start and a DL stint almost saw Kuroda removed from the rotation, Kuroda rebounded and was exceptional the last half of the year. As suggested by the Baseball Forecaster, Kuroda has a healthy margin for error, in part because he induces so many groundballs (51% in 2008). Kuroda is 34 years old, so the injury situation should be monitored, but there's no reason to think Kuroda can't duplicate or improve on last year's numbers now that he has a full major league season under his belt.
My projection: .3.69/1.24/175
With Hudson/Furcal manning the middle infield instead of Kent/Berroa I'm hoping Kuroda's groundball rates translate into an improvement from last year. I'm looking for him to miss some games as I expect he will require some rest at some point in the season. Torre should have learned from watching him pitch for a full season and we probably won't see him hit the 9th inning this year.