Fantasy Baseball: Is Hiroki Kuroda worth picking up?

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Hiroki Kuroda, LAD SP

By the time you read this, there is a very good chance someone in your league may have already picked up Mr. Kuroda. That's because Kuroda was one Mark Texiera double away from throwing a perfect game last night and ESPN has been running replays of it ever since. It's natural instinct to want to rush and pick up a guy like Kuroda after he puts on such a dominating performance.

But there are a few questions you need to ask yourself before clearing a roster spot for Kuroda today.

Was this just a flash in the pan?

In other words, is Kuroda a viable, consistent fantasy pitcher you need on your team?

Let's take a deeper look at his season and hopefully answer that question for you.

First and foremost we have to talk about the injury that forced Kuroda to make a trip to the disabled list on June 20. After struggling mightily in a June 12 start against the San Diego Padres (2.1 IP, 6 ER, 4 BB, 2 HR), Kuroda shut it down with tendinitis in his shoulder.

As you may or may not know, whenever I hear that a pitcher has shoulder problems I treat said player as if he was just diagnosed with bubonic plague. However, tendinitis is a bit different in that it can be treated solely with rest and relaxation with very little chances of it cutting short a season.

Up until the injury, Kuroda had a very solid season going for him. Unfortunately, he was playing for a bad Dodgers team that made his record look much worse than it really is.

Six times this season Kuroda has given up three earned runs or less and still failed to pick up the win. Just for argument's sake we'll say that if the Dodgers offense had backed him up and given Kuroda the victory in four out of those six games, his record would be a sparkling 9-2.

Dealing with the dangerous 'if' scenarios can invariably lead to mistakes so don't make your decision solely off of that.

Kuroda averages a little over five strikeouts per start with a high game of 11 coming against the Chicago Cubs on June 6. But I wouldn't necessarily qualify him as a strikeout pitcher because his best performances come when he can keep the ball down and let hitters beat them into the ground.

Take last night for instance.

Kuroda coerced 14 Braves hitters into hitting groundballs and finishes with his best performance of the season. The aforementioned Cubs game saw Kuroda deliver 11 groundballs to his infielders capable hands.

What does this all mean?

You should seriously consider adding Kuroda to your lineup. First glances will probably give you a negative impression of the foreign import once the luster of last night's near perfect game wears off. We rely on stats to give us an idea of what to expect from a player but you need to have an understanding of the language of stats before you know what they're telling you.

Kuroda's numbers indicate that you can expect some very solid outings in the very near future, starting with his next scheduled appearance against the Marlins on July 12, just before the All-Star break. For the year he's 3-0 at home and next week's game against the Marlins will played in none other than Dodger Stadium.

Fantasy Factor recommendation: Solid pickup.

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Matt Wood is a web editor for suntimes.com and editor of CenterstageChicago.com. He is also a contributor for satirical sports publication The Heckler. Have a fantasy question? E-mail him.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Olsen published on July 8, 2008 1:00 PM.

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