By Tommy Rancel //
Following in the footsteps of fellow Dodgers’ starter Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda chose the comfort of Southern California instead of the uncertainty of the open market. After entertaining the idea of returning to his native Japan, the 35-year-old will remain in the States for at least one more season.
The deal itself looks like a win-win for both sides. Kuroda gets $12 million dollars for one year of work. And the end of the season, he can re-assess his options. For the Dodgers, they get another year of his services at fair market value.
Although Kuroda has a sub .500 record (28-30) in the Major Leagues, he has maintained an above-average ERA. In nearly 500 innings pitched, his career ERA is a sparking 3.60. In fact, he is one of just 13 National League pitchers with a ERA of 3.60 or below (min. 490 innings) over the past three years. Other names include Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, and Dodger teammate Chad Billingsley amongst others. Looking at fielding independent metrics, they support the fact that Kuroda is a 3.5-3.75 ERA starter.
Despite being in his mid-30s, Baseball Info Solutions clocked his average fastball at just over 92 miles per hour. In addition to his regular heater, Kuroda throws a split-fingered fastball, a slider, and has briefly experimented with a curveball. The fastball/slider combo has combined to give him groundball rate of over 50% for his career.
In his three seasons with the Dodgers, his strikeout rates have proven to be largely average (6.56 K/9 career), but he improved slightly this past season (7.29 K/9). He also shows good control (2.06 BB/9 career) and has done a fantastic job of keeping the ball in the yard (0.72 HR/9).
Of course, with age comes concern about durability. Kuroda has not topped 200 innings in a major league season; however he did come close with 196.1 in 2010. He also spent a combined 76 days on the disabled list in 2009 and battled shoulder tendinitis in 2008.
Like his re-signing, Hiroki Kuroda’s efforts have largely gone unnoticed. That said, if you’re looking for the potential for double-digit wins with an above-average ERA at the SP3 spot don’t forget the name.
For more on Hiroki Kuroda and the Los Angeles Dodgers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.