The Dodgers' troubling case of Hong-Chih Kuo
If ever a player deserved every opportunity to come back, it’s Hong-Chih Kuo.
How many players have been through what he has? Four elbow operations, including two Tommy John surgeries. Two bouts of the yips.
Last year he was absolutely incredible. He set the franchise all-time record for lowest ERA at 1.20 (minimum 50 innings). He limited opposing hitters to a .139 average. Was an All-Star. Finished the season as the team closer and had 12 saves.
Only now, the left-handed Kuo has gone from completely dominant to completely unreliable. His ERA is an unsightly 12.46. In 13 innings he’s struck out 18, but walked 16 and allowed 16 hits.
Sunday he gave up a two-run homer to Arizona’s left-handed hitting Gerardo Para. Last year left-handers batted .095 against him and he allowed only one extra-base hit to them all season, a double.
"I didn’t pitch well, but I felt good," Kuo said. "I feel like I’m getting better."
This season Kuo had his second bout of the yips -- a sudden unexplained loss of control -- and he’s still battling to get it completely back.
Meanwhile, he keeps getting hit, keeps struggling with his control, keeps giving up runs.
"I’m not concerned when he gets hit," said manager Don Mattingly. "You get concerned when he’s not throwing strikes.
"With Kuo, you just want him out there with confidence."
Kuo is 30, so it’s hardly time to give up on him. But if there is little left for the Dodgers to play for this season, neither can continually put him out there with deflating results for him and the team.
It’s a troubling call. They can try their best to put him in spots where he’s most likely to succeed, against left-handers, in non-pressure situations. He deserves every chance, but at some point, he has to get it turned around.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire