August 27, 2014

Checking in on the Departed 2011 Dodgers: From Barajas, Blake and Brox to Carroll, Kuo and Kuroda

On the eve of Spring Training for the Dodgers. I thought it would be fun to check in on some of the 2011 Dodger players that departed Chavez Ravine for (hopefully) greener pastures in 2012.  As you will see, some of our old friends are embarking on new chapters, some are being reunited with old friends, while others are struggling to secure roster spots and keep their major league careers going:

Tom Singer from MLB.com takes a look at the new Pirates’ battery of A.J. Burnett and Rod Barajas, and why Barajas is thrilled to be reunited with his 2008 Toronto teammate.

Patrick Saunders and Troy Renck from the Denver Post touch on Casey Blake’s challenge in holding down third base for the Rockies.

The Associated Press looks at Jonathan Broxton’s new beginning in Kansas City as the set-up man to closer Joakim Soria, and why the Royals were the former closer’s first choice.

Jamey Carroll talks with Tyler Mason from FS North about being the Twins new starting shortstop at 38 years old.

Matthew Leach from MLB.com examines Rafael Furcal’s battle to show his power and ability to consistantly get on base for the Cardinals at 35 years old.

Paul Hoynes from The Plain Dealer states that Jon Garland’s physical with the Cleveland Indians didn’t happen today as planned, which is significant as the pitcher’s minor league contract is contingent on him passing the examination.

Larry Larue at the News Tribune examines the complexities of new Mariner reliever Hong-Chih Kuo.

Bryan Hoch talks with Russell Martin and Hiroki Kuroda about Kuroda’s transition to the Yankees, and how it compares to Kuroda’s arrival in Los Angeles from Japan.

Alex Speier from WEEI Sports Radio reports on Vicente Padilla’s legal challenges as he attempts to get to Spring Training on time to compete for a roster spo with the Red Sox.

 

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/ Los Angeles Dodgers 2011 

Wow!

You can’t beat watching the Dodgers take a share of first place with a one-hitter by Hiroki Kuroda.  What a game.  Damn that Mark Teixeira!  In all seriousness, it was a masterful pitching performance: 9 innings, 1 hit, six strikeouts, no walks.  Tantalizingly close to a perfect game.  Hopefully this game was as inspirational to the Dodgers as it was to their fans.  A little trivia from ESPN:

Kuroda became just the fourth Dodgers rookie since 1900 to throw a one-hitter, and first since Hideo Nomo in 1995 vs. San Francisco. He is also the second Dodgers pitcher to throw a complete game one-hitter vs. the Braves since the team moved to L.A. prior to the 1958 season (the other was Bob Welch in 1980).

Broxton Key to Kuroda’s Success

Dominating performance
Notes from Chavez Ravine: The Fox broadcasters surprisingly had an interesting tidbit on Hiroki Kuroda’s complete game shutout last night. Apparently Jonathan Broxton noticed something that seemed a bit off in Kuroda’s slider earlier in the week and offered up a tip on how he might want to adjust his delivery. The result? A four-hitter (along with 11 Ks) with several Cubs players saying that it was a slider that they hadn’t seen before. Great job Brox…love the teamwork!

Photo: Lori Shepler, Los Angeles Times

Kuroda’s Inconsistency Needs Attention

Hiroki Kuroda (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Lenny Ignelzi)
One by-product of the Dodgers current win streak is that the pitching crew is finally getting some help in the form of Dodger runs. I’ve said previously that Hiroki Kuroda’s record to-date this year didn’t really reflect his true talent or performance because the Dodger offense was practically non-existent. On top of that, the boys in blue were doing an excellent job sacrifing a small early lead late in the game with mediocre defense.

I was convinced that this latest outing against the Mets would help show what Kuroda could really provide as the Dodgers challenge Arizona for first place in the NL West. My convictions, as it turns out, was misguided as Kuroda’s control was lacking. It’s not an issue of capability, but of consistency. He really impressed me early on and I had chalked most of his peformance up to issues with the rest of the team. Defense lacking late in games, hitting almost nonexistent…you get the idea. This time, however, Kuroda couldn’t get it together from the start and dug as big a hole as I’ve seen from him all season.

In 3.1 innings, Kuroda threw 80 pitches. 8 hits, four runs (two earned), three walks, and only one strikeout. Even Torre commented on the consistency issue in a post-game comment to the L.A. Times: “His stuff is quality. When you look up there, his velocity is good, it’s just that he hasn’t had the command that we saw in the first game he pitched, and that we certainly know he’s capable of.”

In fairness to Hiroki, he didn’t get lots of defensive help in this outing and the bats weren’t delivering early on as they have in some other series (such as Florida), but this performance feels like a pitching issue more than anything else. Before getting yanked, he dug a 4-1 hole for the Dodgers and was lucky that things weren’t worse given that the Mets left 8 players on base during this time.

The big question is – how do the Dodgers get Kuroda’s pitching woes under control and is he a liability down the stretch if the Dodgers are still competing for first in the NL west? Comments welcome…

What Does Kuroda Bring to the LA Dodgers?

Hiroki Kuroda

A lot of people are asking what exactly does Hiroki Kuroda bring to the Dodgers (besides a hefty price tag)?

Good question. For starters, he delivers a fastball that averages about 93 mph and ranges between 89 and 95 mph. He tends to be a strike machine, delivering lots of speed in the strike zone and can also put down a slider at 89 mph.

Surprisingly, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti never actually saw Kuroda pitch in person. They relied solely on tape to make their decision. Logan White, in speaking to MLB.com, said “I put my reputation on the guy…he’s legit.”

As a part of Hiroshimo Toyo Carp, Kuroda was 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA over 11 seasons with the team. He made the Japan all-stars each of the past three years and was 12-8 in 2007 with a 3.56 ERA.