Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hiroki Kuroda: A Closer Look

One of the Mariners biggest target this offseason appears to be Japanese starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. He's projected to be a middle of the rotation guy, but the reason he seems like such a great option is his price. You can expect him to receive anywhere between $5-9 million per season in a market where Carlos Silva is probably going to get close to $12 million.

His stats in Japan are pretty good, but we've learned that Japanese stats translate about as well as Ichiro quotes about Cleveland. Kuroda has posted ERAs below 3.70 in six of his last seven seasons, including the 1.86 he posted in 2006. One stat that does catch my eye, however, is the pair of 200+ IP seasons he had in the shorter Japanese league. Durability is often a concern with Japanese pitchers but he should be alright.

Kuroda is said to feature a fastball in the mid-90s, forkball, slider and the legendary "gyroball". He pitches his home games in a hitters park (300 feet down the lines, 380 to center) however he allows very few home runs, and his K/BB and BB/9 ratios are great.

No team has ever had a Japanese catcher/pitcher combo before, but I think it's safe to say that having Kenji Johjima behind the plate could only help Kuroda perform to the best of his abilities. Kenji's obvious experience handling Japanese pitchers plus his two full seasons of major league experience give Kuroda the edge over any other Japanese import to come stateside.

Hiroki Kuroda's desire to play on the West Coast coupled with the presence of Johjima and Ichiro makes him a prime candidate for the Mariners. If he signs with Seattle I would expect a 2-3 year deal earning about $6-7 million per. HI-KUR

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