Newly Signed Dodger Hiroki Kuroda
2007 Central League ERA ranking: 9
Mystery Japanese Pitcher
2007 Central League ERA ranking: 12
When I first heard Kuroda’s ERA, I thought it sounded a little high for a Japanese League. Then I looked at the stats and saw that he was ninth in his league in ERA last year, which sounds pretty good. But then I realized that ninth isn’t all that good when there are only 6 teams in the league.
People are claiming that his home stadium in Hiroshima is a hitter’s park, so that might be an encouraging sign. I haven’t found any numbers to back up this claim yet, though. The short dimensions down the lines are often cited, but there’s more to park factors than short outfield porches. Still, maybe ninth is really pretty good given his home park. He was the best Hiroshima Carp pitcher by ERA last year, for what that might be worth.
So it was while pondering how good Kuroda might really be that I saw something a little further down the ERA leader list that chilled my blood!
The mystery man in 12th place on the ERA list strikes out a lot more batters than Kuroda, though he did have a worse ERA ( obviously ). He also had worse HR and walk rates. Maybe we could say that Kuroda is better than the mystery pitcher, but he’s not heaps better.
If that mystery pitcher was also coming to the major leagues, would we expect Kuroda to be much better than him? Especially given the mystery pitcher’s higher strikeout rate, we might expect them to be pretty close in performance.
Unfortunately, the mystery pitcher has pitched in the major leagues before. His name is Kaz Ishii. You know, the frustrating and by the end mediocre Dodger starter who ended up being traded for famed slow-poke catcher and occasional-first-base-man Jason Phillips? What the Pierre were the Dodgers thinking in signing to a three year deal averaging at least 12 million a year a pitcher perhaps only marginally better than Kaz Ishii?
Okay, time for a self-sedation. Ishii is older by Kuroda --- by two years. Ish --- sedative not working! Okay, how about this --- if Kuroda replicated Ishii’s ERA’s from his three years with the Dodgers, we’d get an ERA of 4.27 in 2008, 3.86 in 2009, and 4.71 in 2010. That’s worth 12 million or more a year, right? Right? Ugh, sedative still not working.
In truth no one knows how Kuroda will do. It's really hard to say how a pitcher coming over from Japan will do. I guess one could argue for paying 12 million for a 4 ERA pitcher, if it keeps a 5 ERA pitcher from making starts. We’ll see if Kuroda can even manage an ERA of 4, though. Ishii’s big weakness were all the walks he gave up, but they didn’t really sink him until year three. Kuroda’s weakness is going to be his low strikeout rate, most likely. We’ll see how long it takes for that to sink him.
I have to say, though, I don't hate this signing. That's because I'm an irrationally optimistic Dodger fan. When they happen I always think the free agent signings will work out, somehow. Except for Juan Pierre's signing, of course. I hated that one from the beginning. Even optimists have their limits.