A Perpetual No Win Situation

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Kuroda a Yankee? Say it ain’t so. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

By JORDAN IKEDA

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So, the Dodgers are finally admitting this season is a lost cause and trying to get while the getting is good. The biggest news Wednesday is that the Blue Crew waived Manny Ramirez in addition to Casey Blake, Jay Gibbons, Scott Podsednik, and yes, Hiroki Kuroda.

Le sigh…while there’s no guarantee that Kuroda is gone—his no trade clause being a huge factor—it pains me to admit that it’s really in the best interests of the team to trade him now. Why? Because he’ll most likely be a type B free agent next year. A type B free agent means that if the Dodgers offer him arbitration and then he signs with another team they’ll be awarded a supplemental pick. It’s different for a type A free agent (like both Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudson were last year) who would cost the signing team their top draft pick and a supplemental pick.

If claimed, the Dodgers would have the option to work out a trade with the claiming team, or simply let him go, relieving themselves of the remaining $2.7 million of his salary. If Kuroda clears waivers, they are free to trade him to any team prior to Tuesday night’s waiver trading deadline. The Dodgers are not in a financially solid position to offer Kuroda arbitration next year, because they wouldn’t want to pay him $13 milllion. Mainly because he hasn’t won enough games.

Kuroda has an 8-11 record this year in 24 starts, which automatically sounds like a completely awful season. The 35-year old pitcher, who is in the final year of a three-year $35.3 million contract, made $13 million this season, which makes that record sound and look even worse. Add to that his career record of 25-28, which makes each of his wins a $1.4 million expense, and one might hastily jump to the conclusion that the Dodgers have not gotten their money’s worth.

But to simply look at it like this completely underscores how great, though inconsistent, Kuroda has been in Dodger blue.

Sure, Kuroda’s had his bad nights this year. His brief outing against Arizona to start off July where he got hammered and gave up six runs in 1.2 innings of work instantly springs to mind. And there was also that Colorado game where he gave up five earned runs in four innings as well as the San Diego game a couple weeks back where he gave up four in four.

But outside of those three games, the dude’s arguably been better than either of his previous two seasons. He’s sporting a career-best 3.48 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, with a career high 118 strikeouts in 33 fewer innings than his previous high, and he’s already registered 16 quality starts, meaning he’s pitched well nearly 70 percent of the time.

It’s simply that his offense has not come through for him. Over his past nine outings, he’s gone 1-6 thanks to an anemic offense that has only averaged two runs per game. Over the course of the season, Kuroda has lost half of his quality starts and taken no decisions in three others. That’s 70 percent of his quality starts that have not ended well for him. Furthermore, he’s lost five games in which his team has failed to score a single run. In those contests, #18 has a 2.73 ERA with 28 strikeouts and only six walks in 33 innings.

For his Dodgers career, Kuroda has a 3.66 ERA and a 1.2 WHIP in 74 starts, 43 of which were quality.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe the Dodgers just can’t score for their Japanese pitchers. Hideo Nomo suffered through a similar fate. The Tornado never won more than 16 games with the Blue Crew, despite posting two seasons with a 74 percent quality start percentage, and two others in the 60s. During those same seasons, his highest ERA was 3.39, his lowest, 2.54. Before he fell off completely in 2004, Nomo had 45 quality starts in 67 games (roughly the same quality start average that Kuroda has) and yet he never won more than 16 games.

I guess some players are just destined for a lack of offense when they pitch. Just ask the Braves’ Kenshin Kawakami.

But, all of that is besides the point that if Kuroda is to be traded, be it to the Yankees or some other interested team, while the winning doesn’t speak in his favor, the stats most certainly do.
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Jordan Ikeda is the Rafu Sports Editor. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo.

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