Hiroki Kuroda will return to Japan in 2015, per report
The New York Yankees will lose one of their most consistent starting pitchers with reports from overseas that Hiroki Kuroda will return to his native Japan. After seven successful years in the United States, Kuroda is one of the best Japanese imports Major League Baseball has ever known.
— daisuke sugiura 杉浦大介 (@daisukesugiura) December 26, 2014
What makes Kuroda’s success extra noteworthy is that he didn’t throw a pitch in the majors until he was 33 years old. Kuroda, who turns 40 in February, was 11-9 with a 3.71 ERA for New York in 2014 at age 39, leading the Yankees in starts (32), innings (199) and strikeouts (146).
In seven years with the Dodgers and Yankees, Kuroda was 79-79 with a 3.45 ERA and 115 ERA+, and averaged 30 starts, 188 innings and 141 strikeouts per year.
Among pitchers born in Japan, Kuroda’s 211 starts in the majors rank second only to Hideo Nomo (318), like Kuroda a native of Osaka. Kuroda also ranks second to Nomo in wins and strikeouts (986).
Kuroda has been one of the most consistent starting pitchers during his time in the United States, tied for 16th with his 116 ERA+ (minimum 1,000 innings) from 2008-14. Kuroda never had an ERA+ below 104, and in the last seven years had five seasons with an ERA+ of at least 110; only Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez had more such seasons during that span.
Kuroda ranked 19th among major league pitchers with 1,319 innings during the past seven years, and was one of 19 pitchers with at least six seasons of 30 or more starts in the last seven years. His 3.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio is 14th best among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings from 2008-14.
His strikeout rate has been between 17.8 percent and 19.2 percent for the last six seasons, and his walk rate was between 4.3 percent and 5.9 percent throughout his seven years in the majors.
Known for his fierce work ethic learned playing baseball as a youth in Japan, Kuroda told the New York Times in 2012, “It was all so ingrained in me that I still have a fear of giving up hits and runs.”
The right-hander pitched 11 seasons for the lowly Hiroshima Carp in the Japanese Central League, going 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA despite playing on losing teams for 10 of his 11 years. The only winning season Kuroda experienced in Japan was in 2002, when the Carp were 68-65.
Kuroda made the playoffs in his first two seasons (2008-09) with the Dodgers, and in 2012 with the Yankees. He was 2-2 with a 3.94 ERA in five playoff starts, with 22 strikeouts and just four walks.
In 18 seasons combined in the majors and in Japan, Kuroda is 182-168, just 18 wins shy of 200.