Kuroda Appears True to True Blue

Friday marks the month anniversary of the Los Angeles Dodgers re-signing Ted Lilly for three years and $33 million. If Lilly wants to throw a grandiose party to celebrate his good fortune in life he now can do so while splitting the costs with the Dodgers’ newest rotation member who will also make eight figures annually. Describing Hiroki Kuroda as “new” to the Dodgers is ungenuine. Kuroda has 82 starts with the franchise, thus encompassing his entire North American league career. His reward for good performance is reportedly worth $12 million and is legally binding for the 2011 season only.

The agreement takes the early lead for the fairest deal signed this offseason. Kuroda is relatively new to Major League Baseball but turns 36-years-old in early February. He has never topped 200 innings in America, although he came close last season (196.1), and missed time in 2009 with shoulder tendinitis. Pitchers are volatile beings in health and performance alike. Whereas the Dodgers did not hesitate (or maybe they did, but eventually folded) to hand Lilly a lengthier re-up deal, they showed some caution in doing the same with Kuroda. Maybe it comes down to in-house medical records, where Lilly’s checked out while Kuroda’s lacked the smiley face stamp.

The Dodgers were only conservative with years and did not scrimp with dollars. Kuroda has 10 WAR in his three seasons, with a breakdown as such: 3.6, 2.2, and 4.2 last season. A 5-3-2 weighing of those seasons produces an estimated 3.5 WAR for Kuroda next season. Knock some off for aging and what have you, and Kuroda seems like a good bet to reach three wins. Three wins at $4 million per win equates perfectly to this deal. The higher the market value per win the better the deal looks.

The deal is failsafe because of the intrinsic risk, but if something makes the deal rotten, one has to figure the cause will be injury-related. What Kuroda lacks in pure stuff he makes up for in a quality selection. His palette includes various fastballs (including a splitter) and a slider. He rejects the framework suggesting a pitcher must use his fastball early and often by mixing his pitches well on the first pitch and throughout the count except when he falls behind:

As the above chart shows, the only time Kuroda uses a pitch more than 50% of the time is with his fastball in zero-strike, full, and one-strike(with one or more balls) counts. Even then, he only uses a pitch more than 60% of the time in six of the 12 possible counts and the fastball percentage does not breakdown his two- and four-seam usage. All that results in a nice whiff rate (9.8% for his career) and above average groundball rate (50.8% for his career) which combines with a high infield fly ball rate (12.3% career, but higher than that in the past two seasons) in suggesting batters seem to have issues driving the ball against Kuroda.

Barring injury, this deal could be a coup for Ned Colletti.




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10 Responses to “Kuroda Appears True to True Blue”

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  1. Ben H says:

    Looks like a pretty good deal. Over the course of the last 3 years, his 10 WAR is worth roughly $43M. So he’s solidly outperformed his $35M contract. Chances are decent that he’ll earn that 12M next year even though he’ll be 36 next year. No sign of decline whatsoever with velocity and last year was by far his best year so far, by any of ERA/FIP/xFIP/tERA. 1 year is a fantastic non-risk. From a team stand-point, even 2 years at that price would likely be reasonable.

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  2. this guy says:

    A steal.

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  3. MSTI says:

    I agree that it’s a great deal for the Dodgers, but I think it’s a little unfair to paint it as a team smartly signing an older pitcher to a one year deal. Kuroda’s better than Lilly, and could have absolutely matched or exceeded Lilly’s deal on the market. The reason he didn’t is because all indications are that while he’s enjoyed his time in America, he doesn’t want to commit himself to a long-term deal to remain (until this news broke, no one was sure if he’d even want to come back for 2011) and if he only wanted to stay for one more year, it doesn’t make sense to uproot his family again.

    My point is, no other team would have been able to sign Kuroda to this deal other than the Dodgers – which is in their favor.

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  4. My echo and bunnymen says:

    I hope this is the start of a decent offseason. The divorce has set ‘em back, and as long as they can move forward with the team and make good trades I’ll be happy next season. Here’s hoping Ned Colletti was studying the entire time the Dodgers were not playoff contenders.

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  5. Jay says:

    I’m sorry, but RJ Anderson’s writing is just atrocious.

    All this flowery wording that just makes it seem like he’s trying too hard or is confused. Just get us the facts and get to the point man. And stop questioning your own wording; “describing Hiroki Kuroda as “new” to the Dodgers is ungenuine.”

    Then don’t describe him that way?

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    • DIVISION says:

      I think R.J. meant to say “disingenuous” because ungenuine isn’t even grammatically correct.

      These guys are paid to give opinions but few of them are actual English majors, which is fine with me.

      The extra wordiness only makes the author look inadequate, though.

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  6. DIVISION says:

    Excuse me?

    “What Kuroda lacks in pure stuff he makes up for in a quality selection.”

    I suppose it’s all relative, but against who exactly is Kuroda “lacking in stuff” comparative to the rest of MLB?

    Perhaps if you’re talking about Lincecum, Lee, Halladay et al., but otherwise you’re essentially negating the point you were trying to make.

    If Kuroda is lacking in “stuff”, then Lilly is lacking in everything………

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  7. BX says:

    This was a great deal for the Dodgers, although, as MSTI said, there were probably factors where only the Dodgers could get such a deal done, and not other teams.

    But taking advantage of favorable scenarios is good.

    Although, now that all this payroll is committed to Lilly and Kuroda, I want to see how Ned fills 2B, LF, and 5th starter cheaply

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