Tip your cap, Hiroki Kuroda pitched one hell of a game against the Orioles on Sunday night. In his complete game shutout, Kuroda just surrendered five hits, didn’t allow a single walk and struck out five. Nick Markakis was the only Oriole to move past first base and he didn’t do so until the ninth inning.
18 of the 27 outs Kuroda recorded came via groundballs. That, to this blogger, is the most telling stat of all.
It was a dominant effort from the Yankees righty and one that home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez helped with his low strikezone. Here are Gonzalez’s strikezone plots according to Brooks Baseball.
These plots show only Gonzalez’s called pitches (balls and called strikes). As you can see, Kuroda was very effective at keeping the ball down in the zone and received at least three called strikes on pitches outside of the bottom of the zone against left handed batters.
Wei-Yin Chen had some success working down, but only received one called below the bottom of the zone.
The same is true to Kuroda’s pitches against right handed batters. At least four pitches lower than the bottom of the zone were called strikes on Orioles batters.
A big strike zone certainly isn’t the only reason Kuroda was able to silence the Orioles bats on Sunday night. But it’s worth noting how he took advantage of the information to induce groundball outs and keep the O’s off the bases.