Thursday, June 26, 2014

Kuroda Quietly Settling In At The Halfway Point

In his final start of June, Hiroki Kuroda finally picked up his first win of the month last night, tossing 6.1 innings of 3-run ball against the Blue Jays and helping his team leave Canada with their dignity intact.  In doing so, he wrapped up his best month of the season to date, a season that's seen him take a step back from the levels of remarkable consistency and occasional dominance that defined his first 2 years in pinstripes.  Kuroda pitched to a 3.52 ERA and 3.65 FIP this month.  It was the first time he's had a sub-4.00 monthly ERA this year.

Strangely enough, there hasn't been a big shift in Kuroda's peripherals to explain the better results.  His K and BB rates were both worse this month than they were in May and at his age he's not the type to experience a big boost in velocity as the weather warms up.  What has helped him is the fact that he's been far less hittable than he was in previous months.  34 hits in 29.0 IP in April, 41 in 36.0 in May, only 24 in 30.2 in June.  He also only surrendered 2 home runs in June after giving up at least 4 in each of the previous 2 months.

Is this just a better sample size of BIP luck?  Hirok finding better command of his pitches?  The cop-out answer is that it's probably some of both.  Regardless of cause, the important thing is that Kuroda has established some semblance of consistency, which he lacked earlier in the season.  After giving up 4 or more runs 4 times in his first 8 starts, he's allowed 3 or less in 6 of his last 8.  He's not the pitcher he was and it doesn't look like he's going to become that pitcher again, but he's been much more steady behind Tanaka and that's been one of the quiet blessings of the last few months.

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