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Is Hiroki Kuroda gonna be OK in New York?

Feb 14, 2012, 8:50 AM EDT

kuroda getty Getty Images

I tend to greatly discount talk about players who won’t be able to play in New York due to the pressure or whatever. I mean, it’s a real thing I think, but it seems overplayed. These guys are pros. And with a handful of exceptions, guys who have fizzled in New York have done so for more mundane reasons like age, health, park effects, whatever.

But after reading Alex Belth’s excellent profile of Kuroda over at Bronx Banter, it’s at least worth wondering if he’ll have some issues with the bigger stage.  He sounds like a fantastic human being with a great head on his shoulders, a good sense of personal balance and all of that, but there is stuff like this too:

Kuroda will pitch in a new league, against a DH, and work in smaller ballparks than he did in the NL West. He’s coming off his two most durable years and is at his peak just when physical decline is set to take effect. Oh yeah, he’s also pitching for the Yankees, where the pressure to win is unrelenting.

“The pressure is more than double,” says Yamakawa, who told me that Kuroda went to a doctor last summer when he was having trouble sleeping at night. Unbeknownst to his teammates Kuroda spent two nights in the hospital. The doctor said that stress was keeping him awake. “But he is good at switching his mind when he’s on the mound,” Yumokura said.

The expectations for him will be to a number two or three starter, not The Man, so perhaps it won’t be too terrible. And he’s older and has been around the block before, so he’ll probably be OK.

But … worth watching, no?

  1. lardin - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    Way to cherry pick to make a point.

    How about: “The next 2 years, Kuroda was healthier and he improved incrementally. He went from 183 and 117 innings to 196 and 202; his ERA went from 3.73 and 3.76 to 3.39 and 3.07. His walks stayed low and he continued to strike hitters out. He is a nice, no bullshit pitcher who pitches deep into games and is economical,” said Jay Jaffe from Baseball Prospectus.”

    Or

    ““When he’s really on, his splitty is on,” Russell Martin told Anthony McCarron of the Daily News last week. “It gets him out of trouble. He can throw his fastball at 94 or 95 (miles per hour), though he’s mostly at 92 or 93, so it’s impressive. His slider is different, a really short break. It’s not a strikeout pitch, but it gets a lot of balls off the end of the bat, and his splitty is nasty against lefties or righties.”

    Or

    “Without a doubt it’ll help pitching to Russell,” said Honeycutt. “That’s a huge positive for the Yankees and I have no doubt that Kuroda’s qualified to handle the change.” He is almost certain to get more run support, too. “He might have won 17 games last year with that offense,” said Colletti.

    • protius - Feb 14, 2012 at 7:16 PM

      Very well constructed argument. Very well supported. Bravo.

  2. CliffC - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    Alex did an awesome job on that, as always. It got me really excited to watch Kuroda this year. As you said, seems like a really good guy.

  3. uyf1950 - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    Worth watching…sure. But he has something in the Yankees that he didn’t have nearly as much of with the Dodgers, an OFFENSE. In every single meaningful offensive category the Yankees numbers dwarf those of the Dodgers. So Kuroda doesn’t necessarily have to be as good to have the same or better results then he had with the Dodgers in 2011. And that’s a good thing.

  4. dcfan4life - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    I think this article doesnt mention one of the key reasons playing in New York can be difficult, and thats the New York media. Sure the pressure to win is relentless, but so is the media. That combination can make 2 sleepless nights turn into a season of sleepless nights…

    • koufaxmitzvah - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      However, Kuroda doesn’t speak English (at least, not much to the media). He lets his translator do the talking, and so he can incubate himself in a bubble.

      • paperlions - Feb 14, 2012 at 10:35 AM

        Sweet.

        I love me some bubble incubation.

  5. unclemosesgreen - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    No, not worth watching.

    The article also states how Kuroda broke into NPL with the Hiroshima Carp, who played in a stadium that was just 300 feet to each foul pole. The guy changed continents, succeeded where so many NPL pitchers have failed, and won 3 playoff starts.

    Enough of Yamakawa breaking every medical privacy law on earth, enough speculation on the psychological state of players. And for God’s sake, no one better mention Zack Greinke.

  6. joejoeyankee - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    The thing is, the Yankees have to hit the ball. You are paying someone like Kuroda to pitch the way he’s been pitching. I don’t know if you’ve looked at his stats, but he’s not an over powering pitcher by any means. They are paying him to keep them in the game but they are paying their bats to win ball games (outside of CC). The pressure is huge in the wonderful city of New York. The thing is though when your line up is not hitting like they should be that’s more pressure than pitching in Yankee stadium. Look how many runners the Yankees left on base last year that could have kept their pitcher in the game foe he sub. Then you have to wake up and read how you didn’t perform because you let 4 runners cross the plate, but your team left bases load twice and two runners more on top of that. The main point is not if anyone can pitch in NY it’s if the “potent” Yankees line up wants to show up and hit the ball and score runs that day. Anyone will score runs in Yankee stadium, it’s the little league park of the MLB. The money’s worth needs to start showing up in those bats in order to win games!

  7. koufaxmitzvah - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    Kuroda’s going to be fine. If he can come back to the mound as a top form weeks after getting hit in the head with a liner, then he can navigate his way through the NYC lifestyle.

    The bigger issue, I think, will be how he handles his family. Are they staying in LA, or are they going to NYC with him? He’s a big family man.

  8. deathmonkey41 - Feb 14, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    I think he’ll be fine- it’s not like he has to be the Ace of the club and all the pressure’s going to fall on him.

  9. Maxa - Feb 14, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    Concerns about Kuroda’s transition aside, that was one of the better baseball pieces I’ve read in some time.

  10. sdelmonte - Feb 14, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    I think that he is used to media attention, being a Japanese player with some sort of press entourage that follows him everywhere. The NYC media will leave him alone for the most part as long as there are other lightning rods in the locker room.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 14, 2012 at 10:43 AM

      Not enough people seem to realize this. Say you have 70-80 beat writers for the Yanks across the tri-state area. They’ll all go with different angles each day, so outside a game recap it’s not like Kuroda is going to be the focus of their stories every single day. Now take someone like Matsui or Ichiro, who sometimes had 100+ Japanese writers following them around writing specifically about them every single day. Whose press puts on more “pressure”?

  11. baseballisboring - Feb 14, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    LA isn’t NY, but it’s not Pittsburgh either. He’ll be fine. He’s not even a high profile free agent that they overpaid for, he’s a 3 starter on a one year deal.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Feb 14, 2012 at 10:44 AM

      LA is where New Yorkers move to.

      • Jeff M. - Feb 14, 2012 at 6:04 PM

        Sadly, that’s true.

      • protius - Feb 14, 2012 at 7:21 PM

        Sorry, Miami is where New Yorkers move to.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Feb 15, 2012 at 10:17 AM

        Old New Yorkers move to Miami. The New Yorkers who want to live it large, with their Beemers and their houses with yards, storming Hollywood for all its worth…. Those chumps move to LA, fill up the freeways, and chant Lets Go Mets at Dodger Stadium.

  12. whatthehellisansky - Feb 14, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    This guy has some stones.

    He’s been proving people wrong his whole career (see unclemosesgreen)

    Glad to have him in pinstripes and even happier to see that he didnt join at the deadline last year because of Loyalty to his current team.

    Welcome to the BX, Hiro. Best of luck.

    Anyone else surprised the Yanks didnt have a press conference for the Pineda trade and Kuroda signing? I figured they woulda introduced them both together.. or maybe i just missed it?

  13. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Feb 14, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    The flip side is that, if he pitches well, the press and fans will love him. How many Hiro/Hero puns can the Daily News/Post come up with in one season. It always comes down to performance in NYC. If he does what he has been doing, he will be fine. Let’s face it, the bar for #2 starters in NYC (cough**AJ**ahem excuse me) is not set all that high.

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