Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 6/14/13
In Japan, where traditional ranking permeates even baseball, the ace of a team’s pitching staff typically wears the number 18. It is a custom confined to that country, although Hiroki Kuroda has certainly upheld its notion in baseball’s metropolis. Kuroda has played ace for the Yankees this season. But the team will need Sabathia to start carrying more of the load.   Indeed, it has been Kuroda – not purported ace C.C. Sabathia – who has been the finest starting pitcher this year for the Yankees. Though Sabathia may eat more innings – and given the drop in his velocity, perhaps he should begin eating more than that – Kuroda is the steadier arm. His placid demeanor befits his consistency on the mound, where all season long the savvy 38-year old has given his team a chance to win. Unfortunately for him, they haven’t always taken advantage of it. Kuroda’s record is 6-5, but he has pitched well enough to win at least 11 times. On three occasions he has earned a no-decision when pitching at least seven innings and allowing two runs or fewer. Twice he has lost when surrendering three runs or fewer. Yesterday against the Oakland A’s, Kuroda hurled eight innings of spectacular two-hit ball, was perfect in every inning but one, and left the game with nothing to show for it. As a nod toward his consistency, in 14 starts this year Kuroda has given up four runs or more just twice. By comparison, Sabathia has done so six times. A corollary of C.C.’s munificence: 101 hits. Only one pitcher in the majors has allowed more hits than that. Kuroda has allowed a far stingier 72 hits, a thriftiness that has contributed to a WHIP of 1.04, good for 7th in the A.L. and ahead of the likes of Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and Jake Peavy. His 2.78 ERA ranks 8th in the A.L.; Sabathia’s 4.07 is a distant 30th. What’s most impressive about Kuroda, though, is his ability to dominate hitters without throwing all that hard. Whereas most pitchers on the leaderboards can rear back and throw 95 mph fastballs when they need to, Kuroda’s velocity tops out near 90 mph. But if his contemporaries throw heaters, Kuroda throws darts. His pitches are sharp and precise, and targeted for an exact location. They move suddenly, keenly; a two-seam spilling over the inside corner here, a splitter diving into the dirt there. They don’t so much smack the catcher’s mitt as they do sting it. Maybe dominate is the wrong word. Verlander dominates hitters. Hernandez, Darvish and Buchholz do, too. Kuroda more closely manipulates hitters. He muffles them through deception, changing his speed and location with the automated ease of a translator switching languages. Like a world-tour golfer choosing the right club, Kuroda always seems to know the right pitch for the right situation. As the baseball saying goes, he’s a pitcher’s pitcher. But the Yankees, just recently swept by the A’s, are going to need the dominating ways of Sabathia too. As evidenced so far this season, the big lefthander can’t rely on guile the way Kuroda can. They need him to rediscover that ability to suppress hitters, to stifle them. When Kuroda is at his best, he controls an offense. When Sabathia is at his best, he smothers it. It was in this manner that he won the Cy Young award in 2007, and carried the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009. And it will be in this manner that he combines with Kuroda to form a formidable one-two punch at the top of the team’s rotation. With Sabathia and Kuroda, it must be power and ploy. Sabathia has always been one to shoulder the burden of winning. And he has always been one to assume responsibility in defeat. In the wake of a loss, he does not lament a lack of run support, blame a guilty defense or question a tight strike zone. He looks only at himself. With the Yankees ragtag offense coming back down to earth – June averages for Youkilis, Hafner and Wells are .135, .114 and .095, respectively – surely Sabathia knows the time to step up is now. The mercenaries can only take this team so far. Kuroda has done magnificently to account for C.C.’s inconsistency. But at some point – at that may be now – Sabathia needs to don the number 18 on his back.    
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bills suspend assistant coach for first six games of 2015

Trent Richardson has 50-50 chance at making Raiders roster

Rex Ryan takes subtle jabs at Jets' upper management

Everett Golson responds to Paul Finebaum's criticism

Mark Sanchez says it ‘crazy’ to call Chip Kelly racist

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Malcolm Butler daring Brady to throw his way in practice

Geno Smith confident worst is behind him and the Jets

Ronda Rousey knocks out Bethe Correia in 34 seconds

Von Miller earns dismissal from NFL’s drug program

Ian Kennedy watches birth of daughter on FaceTime before start

Matt Williams wants Bryce Harper to stop getting ejected

WATCH: Dez Bryant throws punches at training camp

There's no need for Notre Dame to join a conference

WATCH: Benches clear during Royals-Blue Jays game

Jim Harbaugh gives Nicki Minaj a shoutout on Twitter

The Kardashian sisters still call Caitlyn Jenner 'Bruce'

Tennessee fan recreates Neyland Stadium in backyard

Lolo Jones: I could last at least a minute against Rousey

Bears have very strict rules for media during training camp

Jamaal Charles: I feel like I'm the LeBron James of football

Ronda Rousey: I'll fight Cyborg if she stops taking steroids

Danny Garcia beats Paulie Malignaggi, remains undefeated

Bobby Wagner, Seahawks agree to contract extension

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Notre Dame doesn't need a conference

Rex takes jabs at Jets' management

Sanchez: It's 'crazy' to call Chip racist

Ronda Rousey calls out Cyborg

Five most underrated players in the NFL

Five potential NFL salary cap casualties this preseason

Winners and losers of the 2015 MLB trade deadline

Pirates do Pirates at deadline: Neat little moves

Mets acquire Cespedes from Tigers

Ranking the NFL’s 32 head coaches

Five worst baseball trades since 2000

Examining the state of the NFL

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker