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Daily Dodger in review: Hong-Chih Kuo and one of the team's greatest seasons for a reliever

November 15, 2010 |  7:28 am

HONG-CHIH KUO, 29, reliever

Final 2010 stats: 3-2, 1.20 ERA, 12 saves in 13 opportunities, 0.78 WHIP, 73 strikeouts and 18 walks in 60 innings pitched.

Contract status: Arbitration eligible.

The good: The Dodgers’ feel-good story of the year. Unexpectedly put together his finest season. After missing the first two weeks of the season, he  stayed healthy the rest of the year. Team tried to treat his tender elbow gingerly, though not always, and by mid-August he had emerged as the team closer.

His 1.20 ERA led all major league relievers and was the lowest in Dodgers history for a pitcher with a minimum of 50 innings. Left-handers went a ridiculous 6-for-63 against him (.095). Was named to the All-Star team for the first time. Allowed only one home run all season. Averaged 10.95 strikeouts per nine innings. Saves in his last 12 consecutive opportunities.

The bad: Suffered two losses. Wait, that’s actually good; he appeared in 56 games. Pitched in consecutive games only four times all season, but they were trying to be careful with him.

What’s next: Next season, he’s slated to return to his left-handed set-up role, as the Dodgers again go to Jonathan Broxton as their closer. If Broxton wavers, however, there’s no reason to hesitate in going more quickly to Kuo.

The take: Kuo is a two-way, take-your-breath-away pitcher. At first, he takes your breath as you hope he doesn’t blow out his elbow for a fifth time. Then you see his stuff, and you lose your breath all over again.

At some point, they’re probably going to have to let him go and use him as they would any other reliever, or at least come close. Still, every time he pitched more than one inning (16 times last season), you were crossing your fingers.

Left-handers have almost no shot against him. He’s as automatic as a manager could dream of. He started the year on the disabled list with a sore elbow, and it was hard to think you could never really count on him again. And then after allowing two earned runs in his first game, he allowed only six more the rest of the entire season. He was the Dodgers pitcher of the year.

-- Steve Dilbeck