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« Monster Mash: Red Sox Land New Corner Outfielder in Jonny Gomes | Main | Giancarlo Stanton Solves Breaking Stuff »

Hiroki Kuroda: Command King

Hiroki Kuroda brushed aside concerns that his finesse stuff would not translate to the American League last season, establishing new career highs in innings pitched (219.2) and ERA+ (126) for the Yankees. The Bombers would have been a $200 million also-ran without Kuroda, considering that Michael Pineda's season-ending shoulder injury, CC Sabathia's barking elbow, Phil Hughes' and Ivan Nova's homer woes and Freddy Garcia's morphing back into a pumpkin made New York's rotation a middle-of-the-pack unit in 2012.

Kuroda will again don pinstripes in 2013, reportedly turning down more lucrative, multi-year offers to sign a one-year, $15 million deal with the Yankees. The 38-year-old had other teams willing to shell out ace money because he displayed the best command of any starter in the DH league last year.

While Kuroda throws a handful of pitches ranging from the low 90s to the low 70s, they all have one thing in common: They hardly ever catch the middle of the plate. Take a look at Kuroda's pitch location with his sinker, slider, splitter and curveball:

Kuroda's sinker location, 2012

Kuroda threw 21.2% of his sinkers to the horizontal middle of the strike zone, comfortably below the 22.9% average for AL starting pitchers in 2012.

Kuroda's slider location, 2012

Kuroda tossed 16.8% of his sliders over the middle of the plate, compared to the 23.1% average.

Kuroda's splitter location, 2012

With his splitter, Kuroda threw to the middle of the plate 18.6% of the time. That was well below the 21.1% average for AL starters.

Kuroda's curveball location, 2012

Kuroda placed 19% of his curves over the middle, compared to the 25.2% average.  

Pitchers typically get crushed when the leave the ball over the middle of the plate, surrendering a .511 opponent slugging percentage last year. Kuroda was no exception, as opponents slugged .536 when he left the ball over the middle. Happily, Kuroda threw the lowest percentage of pitches over the horizontal middle of the dish of any qualified AL starter in 2012:

Lowest percentage of pitches thrown to the horizontal middle of the zone among AL starters, 2012

Pitcher Pct. Middle Pitches
Hiroki Kuroda 19.3%
Dan Haren 19.5%
Jon Lester 19.9%
Colby Lewis 20.3%
Doug Fister 21.0%
Clay Buchholz 21.1%
Jered Weaver 21.2%
Gavin Floyd 21.2%
Jason Vargas 21.5%
Kevin Millwood 21.6%
AVG for AL SP 23.6%


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