With a strong start to his season and with the early season velocity troubles for C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda has established himself as the ace of the New York Yankees.
So far in 2013, at the age of 38, Kuroda has looked as good as he ever has. In his first 11 starts, he has posted a 6-3 record with an impressive 2.39 ERA, ranking fourth in the American League.
I don’t think there is any doubt that the last few seasons when Kuroda is on the mound, Yankees fans have a great deal of confidence. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but I will anyway. If Game 1 of the ALDS was tomorrow, who would Yankee fans want on the mound?
If it’s up to me, I’d want Kuroda, who has become not just the Yankees’ most dependable pitcher, but one of the elite pitchers in all of MLB.
Kuroda’s WHIP is right around 1.00, which is rare for a starting pitcher. Sabathia’s, on the other hand, is over 1.30, his highest since his age-21 season. It’s not just about Kuroda, as Sabathia’s decline is for real. Whether fans want to admit it, we’re in the midst of it. The 13-year veteran has a few very concerning trends which I wrote about a few weeks ago even when his ERA was at an elite level.
His increase in home runs allowed over the last few seasons parallels directly with his decreasing velocity. Why is this important? It tells me that these declining results aren’t arbitrary and certainly aren’t a fluke.
Could Sabathia change his approach and begin to pitch more towards his stuff? Sure. There are lots of ways a pitcher can be successful. However, the days of Sabathia being a dominant MLB pitcher are over.
One aspect of Sabathia leading the Yankees staff in October which I do like is his ability to pitch on three days’ rest. If the Yankees have a clear drop-off after their third starter by October and the scheduling allows, it’s something to consider.
However, Sabathia would have to have a very strong second half of the season to even have to consider that — I’m not sure I would go out of my way to get the 2013 version of Sabathia any extra starts.
This dilemma is obviously premature, but it’s something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.