Hiroki Kuroda Stats To Watch
When Kuroda faced the Indians earlier this season, he pitched to 28 left-handed batters and no right-handed hitters. Undaunted, he allowed one earned run and five hits in seven innings in a win.
Hiroki Kuroda: Since May 27
If the Indians wish to try that strategy again, Kuroda probably won't mind. In his last two starts, he retired 24 of the 28 lefties he faced. Kuroda's strategy was to work away, as it usually is, but he did so even more in those two games.
In fact, in his last three starts, 113 of his 176 pitches to left-handed hitters (64 percent) have been to the outer-third of the strike zone or further off the plate. That's about 15 more pitches than would be expected based on his rates earlier this season.
Kuroda has done a masterful job of avoiding solid contact. Since May 27. Inside Edge, a service that provides data to major-league teams, tracks what its calls "hard-hit balls" against a pitcher, based on video review.
In his last 16 starts, Kuroda has allowed 51 hard-hit balls. That might sound like a lot, but it isn't, considering how much Kuroda has pitched in this span.
It converts to a "hard-hit average" of 12.4 percent, meaning one of every eight at-bats ends with a hard-hit ball. The typical major-league rate is about one hard-hit ball in every five at-bats.
Among balls that were actually hit, 16 percent of those against Kuroda were classified as "hard hit," well better than the average of around 25 percent.
How do you get Shin-Soo Choo out?
Friday night, David Robertson was able to get Choo out in a way that most right-handed pitchers haven't been able to do so, with a fastball right over the heart of the plate.
Choo's numbers against fastballs from righties are very good: a .394 batting average when a turn ends with one ranks second in baseball behind Joe Mauer and a 1.121 OPS that ranks fifth-best.
This is slightly offset by a high miss rate (he misses on 22 percent of his swings, well above the MLB norm), making pitching to Choo a high-risk, high-reward scenario.
Choo was 2-for-4 against Kuroda, with one hit coming on a heater over the middle of the plate, another on a curve on the outside corner.
Kuroda's best bet might be to try to get Choo out in one of his weakest areas, up-and-away. Over the last four seasons, Choo's rate of missing on his swings to that area (letter-high, outer-third of the plate) is 39 percent, by far his highest of anywhere in the strike zone.
Who's hot, who's not?
Eric Chavez is 1-for-14 in the last seven games, with seven of the outs coming against sliders (five from right-handed pitchers).
Robinson Cano is 4-for-his-last-10 against righties, but hasn't homered against one since Aug. 1.
Russell Martin is 0-for-10 since July 30 when an at-bat ends with the first pitch (the typical major leaguer hits .334 against first pitches).