clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Celebrating Hiroki Kuroda’s Japanese Hall of Fame induction

The former Yankee righty was elected to the Japanese Hall of Fame, and it’s hard not to get excited about a guy who wore the pinstripes with class.

Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees

Thursday was a day to remember for former Yankee Hiroki Kuroda. He became the newest member of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, which is no small achievement, together with catcher Motonobu Tanishige and the late umpire Tomoichi Tanimura.

Kuroda, very well-liked among teammates and fans during his Yankees years between 2012 and 2014, had a brilliant career that included 203 wins between the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) and MLB. Between the Dodgers and Yankees in the majors, he had a rock-solid 3.45 ERA.

“I would like to express my gratitude to everyone,” the 48-year-old former hurler said, per the Japan Times. “I faced more than 10,000 hitters during my career. I worked hard with teammates and against opponents. Many people were involved in my career. Many fans cheered me on.”

Kuroda is a beloved figure on three different franchises: the Hiroshima Carp, the Dodgers, and the Yankees. And how could you not like the guy? He was a fierce competitor who often prioritized the needs of the team ahead of everything else.

This was evidenced, for example, in the 2012 American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. Yes, the Bombers ended up being swept, but Kuroda took the ball on three days’ rest for the first time in his career ahead of Game 2. The exhausted Yanks had little choice after a grueling ALDS victory over Baltimore and a 12-inning loss in the ALCS opener that also ended captain Derek Jeter’s season. Still, they had every reason to be confident in the 37-year-old righty.

ALCS - Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

That day, Kuroda matched zeroes with Aníbal Sánchez and retired the first 15 Tigers he faced. After six scoreless frames with eight strikeouts, Detroit finally got to him in the seventh, taking a 1-0 lead. With their bullpen reeling, the Yankees tried to push Kuroda into the eighth, and while he did tie his career high with 11 strikeouts, consecutive singles marked the end of his courageous effort. The bullpen allowed those runs to score, and the New York offense never dented home plate. But Kuroda gave them everything he had.

Kuroda’s stint with the Yankees started on January 13, 2012, following four years in LA. He put pen to paper on a one-year, $10 million deal, the same day the team traded vaunted catching prospect Jesús Montero for Michael Pineda. Those were exciting times to be a fan, and that really was a great ballclub to watch. Kuroda was fantastic in that 2012 campaign for the Bombers and capably helped cover for Pineda’s absence due to recurring shoulder injuries. That year, the veteran posted a 3.32 ERA in 219.2 innings, with 16 wins and 3.4 fWAR.

In the AL Division Series, he pitched 8.1 frames and allowed just a couple of runs in his start against the Baltimore Orioles. Raúl Ibañez’s ninth-inning heroics wouldn’t have been possible without Kuroda mostly keeping the O’s at bay. So, yes: he took the ball on three days’ rest versus the Tigers with his previous outing covering 8.1 innings.

Kuroda also had his fair share of big regular season moments with the Yankees: a complete-game shutout against the Rangers in August 2012, a seven-inning masterpiece against the Dodgers on July 31, 2013 in which he went toe to toe with prime Clayton Kershaw, and many more. You just knew that when Kuroda took the ball, the chances of him keeping the opposition under three runs were excellent.

The Yankees missed the postseason in 2013 and 2014, but you can be sure Kuroda was one of the few bright spots. He finished with a 3.31 ERA in 2013 and a 3.71 mark in 2014, always flirting with 200 frames.

Kuroda’s last start in pinstripes — which coincided with Jeter’s farewell to the Bronx — was also epic, with nine strikeouts over eight innings:

The pitcher then elected to return to Japan with Hiroshima, and wrapped up his brilliant career there in 2016. He posted a 3.55 ERA with the Carp, a 3.45 mark with the Dodgers and a 3.44 one with New York. That’s consistency right there.

Those who followed the Yankees in 2012 and those “dark” 2013-14 seasons know what Kuroda meant to the team. Dependability and efficiency were his calling cards, and true fans can’t help to be happy that he is being recognized as he deserves.