Pitchers that try to make the move from the National League to the American League, and specifically to the American League East, are always met with a level of skepticism and caution. When you get to travel to PETCO Park regularly and face the pitcher a few times a game, it's a little different than pitching with the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium behind you in a league that subs out the pitcher for someone who can actually hit.
When the news broke that Brian Cashman had signed Hiroki Kuroda, it was a bit overshadowed by the Michael Pineda trade that had gone down about 60 minutes prior, but there were still people who automatically threw around the NL Pitcher designation and saw doom in the future. No one was sure how Kuroda would perform in the hard-hitting AL East after spending his entire professional baseball career in America playing for the Dodgers, so the apprehension was to be expected; but after seeing what he has done so far this season, it seems most of those fears were unfounded.
If you asked what I expected out of Hiroki Kuroda before the season started, I would have said that I thought he'd be a solid contributor to the rotation without replicating his NL West numbers quite as well. I would have said that he would probably give up more home runs than before, but that I think he would be fine, though not special. As you can see above, that's not quite true.
Kuroda has been better than advertised, keeping his numbers right in line with the way they were for three years with the Dodgers. He's given up more home runs per fly balls this year, but that's probably to be expected with any pitcher who comes to Yankee Stadium. More balls that would have been lazy fly outs manage to find the seats and that's just the nature of the stadium. That hasn't kept Kuroda from being one of the best pitchers on the staff for stretches throughout 2012, turning in high quality start after high quality start. He's had some clunkers here and there, but very few pitchers don't.
What's even better is that it's not as if Kuroda is simply beating up on the bottom feeders of the league to boost his numbers. In fact, he's been better against the better teams, with a 6-3 record and a 2.47 ERA against teams better than .500. The only current division leader he has a losing record against are the Texas Rangers, in which he lost the pitcher's duel with Yu Darvish when the offense couldn't give him any support. We saw what he could do against the Angels in the home opener, another likely playoff team. If he can go out against that kind of competition and throw a quality start in October, the Yankees won't have to worry as much about the toss-ups in Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes.
For all the worry that was done over how Hiroki Kuroda would do in his transition from National League to American League, he's managed to prove a large number of his doubters wrong to this point. People will still show up when he's off for a game to proclaim him as another unreliable NL Pitcher, but Kuroda has proven that he's much more than that, and that's exactly what Brian Cashman was banking on when he signed him last Winter.
Hiroki Kuroda has done enough to shed the tag of "NL Pitcher" that has become synonymous with failure outside of the spacious parks and pitcher-hitting National League. He's just a pitcher, and a pretty good one at that. If he continues to pitch as he has, it will be difficult to argue against giving him another one-year deal for 2013, if he will accept, with the uncertainty of Andy Pettitte's return and the status of Michael Pineda's shoulder being unknown. If Kuroda can be the pitcher he is now again, it will be money well spent and a rotation spot well utilized.