Sayonara Hiroki Kuroda

When David Young did the community preview of Hiroki Kuroda last spring, he also delved into how Kuroda became a Dodger, and he did it so well that I don't feel any need to rewrite what he did.

What Kuroda has turned out to be is a solid middle of the rotation starter that has avoided a serious arm issue over the course of his first contract. According to his fangraphs statistics page, Kuroda has averaged 92.2 MPH (about the midpoint of the range White stated) with his fastball, has thrown the slider 28.2% of the time as his secondary pitch, and has mixed in that hard "forkball" (or split-finger fastball) at 87.3 MPH. That adds up to a pitcher who creates his fair share of ground balls (1.64 career GB/FB ratio) and has increased his strikeout rate by a significant amount each season.

Stats

Year Age IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP x-FIP tERA ERA+ WHIP
2008 33 183.1 2.06 5.69 3.73 3.59 3.93 3.92 112 1.216
2009 34 117.1 1.84 6.67 3.76 3.58 3.66 3.52 106 1.142
2010 35 196.1 2.20 7.29 3.39 3.26 3.57 3.15 113 1.161
2011 36 202 2.18 7.17 3.07 3.78 3.56 4.22 121 1.21
2011 Projections - Age 36 Season



Year
IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP WHIP
Bill James
209.0 2.41 6.20 3.66 4.04 1.24



Marcel
169.0 2.34 6.92 3.65 3.55 1.22



Baseball HQ
-
-
-
-
-



ZiPS
164.3
2.08
6.52
3.56
1.19



(Photo by Jae C. Hong - AP)

Given how solid Kuroda's peripherals are, I'm guessing most of us would be shocked to find out that Kuroda will end his Dodger career with five more losses then wins. Given that the Dodgers went to the NLCS in his first two years I find this even more amazing. So I decided to see how many other Los Angeles Dodger starters managed to win at least 40 games and be sub .500 pitchers. Not many.

                                                   
Rk Player W L From To Age GS ERA+
17 Bill Singer 69 76 1964 1972 20-28 179 106
23 Tom Candiotti 52 64 1992 1997 34-39 159 106
24 Darren Dreifort 48 60 1994 2004 22-32 113 95
28 Hiroki Kuroda 41 46 2008 2011 33-36 114 113
29 Kevin Gross 40 44 1991 1994 30-33 95 103

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/16/2012.

I'd say Kuroda was better then any of the pitchers on that list. Whenever Kuroda took the mound during his four years you could always count on him keeping you in the game. While Kuroda did not delve deep into games, you knew he'd be around come the sixth inning. Rarely did he implode, and even if the wins did not pile up, he was an excellent second banana to Clayton. In his last three years he gave up five runs or more only eight times. Some called him a warrior but that is probably being gracious. He was a pitcher though, through and through.

One final Dodger note. among pitchers who have started at least 100 games, Kuroda ranks number 12 using ERA+ as the metric.

                                                             
Rk Player ERA+ GS From To W L W-L% OPS
1 Kevin Brown 148 129 1999 2003 58 32 .644 .619
2 Sandy Koufax 135 286 1958 1966 156 77 .670 .581
3 Clayton Kershaw 135 116 2008 2011 47 28 .627 .612
4 Andy Messersmith 129 123 1973 1979 55 34 .618 .603
5 Derek Lowe 120 135 2005 2008 54 48 .529 .679
6 Tommy John 118 174 1972 1978 87 42 .674 .647
7 Tim Belcher 118 119 1987 1991 50 38 .568 .618
8 Don Drysdale 118 424 1958 1969 187 152 .552 .643
9 Orel Hershiser 116 309 1983 2000 135 107 .558 .642
10 Ismael Valdez 115 158 1994 2000 61 57 .517 .689
11 Bob Welch 114 267 1978 1987 115 86 .572 .649
12 Hiroki Kuroda 113 114 2008 2011 41 46 .471 .673
13 Jerry Reuss 113 201 1979 1987 86 69 .555 .649
14 Burt Hooton 113 265 1975 1984 112 84 .571 .635
15 Chad Billingsley 110 163 2006 2011 70 52 .574 .704
16 Don Sutton 110 533 1966 1988 233 181 .563 .626
17 Ramon Martinez 109 262 1988 1998 123 77 .615 .669
18 Chan Ho Park 109 181 1994 2008 84 58 .592 .700
19 Fernando Valenzuela 107 320 1980 1990 141 116 .549 .655
20 Al Downing 107 120 1971 1977 46 37 .554 .652

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/16/2012.

Kuroda is probably the second best free agent staring pitcher the Dodgers have ever signed, trailing only Derek Lowe.

While the rest of baseball has struggled with failed Japanese imports at exorbitant salaries the Los Angeles Dodgers have been blessed with three of the best in Nomo, Saito, and Kuroda. They were always classy. 'm going to miss him, the Dodgers are going to miss him, the fans are going to miss him.

I may even find myself rooting for a Yankee every fifth game for the first time in a long time.

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