Hiroki Kuroda is the Yankees’ best starter. Even CC Sabathia doesn’t dispute the veteran right hander’s ascendance to ace status. However, designating Kuroda as the top pitcher in pinstripes doesn’t go far enough. The Japanese hurler just might be the best starter in the entire American League.
Ask anyone to name the top contenders for the A.L. Cy Young and chances are Kuroda’s name won’t make the cut. The Yankees’ ace couldn’t even wrangle a spot on this year’s All Star team, so it’s no surprise that his dominant 2013 season has been mostly overlooked. However, following another seven shutout innings against the Dodgers (for which he earned a no decision), the right hander currently leads the junior circuit with an ERA+ of 169. Kuroda also ranks first in advanced metrics like RE24, WPA, and adjusted pitcher wins, while placing fourth (and moving up) in baseball-reference.com’s calculation of pitchers’ WAR. If you can look past his deflated win total, which has been suppressed by the Yankees’ anemic offense, Kuroda’s Cy Young case seems to grow stronger with each passing start.
Best Calendar Month ERA by a Yankee Pitcher, Since 1916
Note: Minimum of 30 innings.
With two months left in the season, it’s too soon to start handing out the real hardware. Still, Kuroda’s mantle should get more crowded when the “pitcher of the month” awards are announced. The Yankees’ ace posted a sterling ERA of 0.55 in 33 innings during July, giving him the lowest rate among all pitchers with at least 19 innings in any single month this season. Kuroda’s outstanding July also ranks as one of the stingiest in Yankees’ history. Including all pinstriped pitchers with at least 30 innings in a calendar month (since 1916), Kuroda’s July ERA was the fourth best.
With the rest of the rotation crumbling around him, Kuroda’s hot July has helped the Yankees hang in the wild card race. And, if the Bronx Bombers hope to make the playoffs, they’ll likely need Kuroda to sustain his brilliance. If the right hander is able to maintain his level of performance, not only would that boost the Yankees’ chances of playing in October, but it would also give Kuroda one of the best seasons by a starter in franchise history.
Top-10 ERA+ Seasons by a Yankee Pitcher, Since 1901
Note: Includes all qualified seasons. Boldface represents league-leading figures.
If Kuroda ends the year as the ERA+ leader, he’d become only the 13th Yankees’ pitcher to accomplish the feat. Also, if he maintains a rate of 169, it would rank as the ninth best mark among all qualified season in franchise history. It’s even possible that Kuroda could climb that list all the way to number four.
Last year, Kuroda was the Yankees’ secret weapon. This season, he has been one of the few weapons at the team’s disposal…one that Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman would love to deploy in game 1 of a playoff series. Unfortunately for Kuroda and the Yankees, it’s increasingly looking as if they won’t get the chance. Of course, there’s always the Cy Young award as a consolation. If not with a championship, Kuroda may be able to punctuate his season with the accolades he so richly deserves, assuming, of course, the baseball world has taken notice by then.