2014 MLB Statistics: 32 GS, 199 IP, 3.71 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 18% K%, 4% BB%, 3.5 fWAR
2015 Contract Status: Free Agent
Hiroki Kuroda entered the year as a 39-year-old who ended his age 38 season on a very sour note. Over his last eight starts of 2013, he went 0-6 with a pitiful 6.56 ERA. On the surface, it seemed like the antique righty wore down over the course of the long season; but, his peripheral stats suggested his slump was mostly due to bad luck. Even so, any sort of downturn from a pitcher in his late 30’s is cause for worry.
Despite these concerns, Kuroda managed to defy age for yet another year, and was easily the most reliable member of the Yankees rotation. Kuroda’s 32 starts were by far the most on the Yankees, where no other pitcher even broke 20. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the veteran righty. Although he put up a rock-solid 3.71 ERA on the year, Kuroda actually got off to something of a rocky start to the season. He had some trouble keeping the ball in the park early on, allowing nine dingers in his first 10 starts, which contributed to a 5.28 ERA and 4.30 FIP in the month of April. But rather than falling off of a cliff like he did in 2013, Kuroda got progressively better as the season wore on. His monthly ERA’s were 5.28, 4.00, 3.52, 3.38, 3.45, and 2.81, and that last number may actually understate his September, when he posted a dominant 34:0 K:BB ratio in 32 innings.
Overall, Kuroda was everything the Yankees could have asked for in 2014. There aren’t very many 39-year-olds who hold up for 200 innings, and even fewer who do it while maintaining a sub-4 ERA. Yet despite all of his success, this very well may be the end of the road for Kuroda, who’s toyed with retirement after each of the last few seasons. He’ll be 40 in February, and while he’s managed to defy age these past few years, you have to figure he doesn’t have too many bullets left in his arm — even following his impressive late-season performance. Even so, some team would certainly find a spot for him if he does decide to pitch next year, and I wouldn’t mind at all if that team were the Yankees. He’s been a joy to watch these past three seasons.
This article originally appeared on Pinstripe Alley.