2011 Dodgers Player Profile: Hong-Chih Kuo, Leg, KICK!

Hong-Chih Kuo takes aim at another enemy batsman.
2011 Dodgers Player Profiles and Community Projections
You can click on the "Community Projections" link right under the headline to get a page that displays all of our stories in this category. For the profiles we've already published, there is still time to give us your predictions for this season for that player in the comments section of his profile.

Last season the Los Angeles Dodgers created a promotional poster that featured hurler Hong-Chih Kuo, among others, as the Young Guns. No firearms were visible, but there was no doubt the image was designed to evoke the persona of the gunslinger, the man who straightforwardly faces down his competition by brandishing his best weapon in a one-on-one duel, man-to-man.

We love Kuo because he carries that gunslinger mentality to the mound, his left arm his Colt .45, challenging hitters with his 94 mph fastball and bringing them to their knees with a hard 87 mph slider, then finishing them off with his patented leg kick providing the punctuation, like pistol smoke blown from a revolver barrel.

Fortunately, we get to enjoy this sight quite often, at least when Kuo is on the active roster. Kuo has the second highest career strikeout rate of any Los Angeles Dodger pitcher (minimum 250 innings), trailing only his bullpen mate, Jonathan Broxton. But he has also spent significant time on the disabled list.

All-Time LA Dodgers leaders in Strikeout Rate - minimum 250 innings pitched
Rk             Player  SO/9     IP From   To   Age   G
1 Jonathan Broxton 11.70 379.1 2005 2010 21-26 372
2 Hong-Chih Kuo 10.48 265.1 2005 2010 23-28 178
3 Eric Gagne 10.38 545.1 1999 2006 23-30 298
4 Antonio Osuna 9.52 327.0 1995 2000 22-27 265
5 Sandy Koufax 9.40 2119.2 1958 1966 22-30 335
6 Ken Howell 9.37 302.2 1984 1988 23-27 194
7 Clayton Kershaw 9.26 483.0 2008 2010 20-22 85
8 Hideo Nomo 8.87 1217.1 1995 2004 26-35 191
9 Todd Worrell 8.83 268.0 1993 1997 33-37 269
10 Chan Ho Park 8.28 1279.0 1994 2008 21-35 275
11 Darren Dreifort 8.27 872.2 1994 2004 22-32 274
12 Chad Billingsley 8.19 825.2 2006 2010 21-25 160
13 Kevin Brown 8.09 872.2 1999 2003 34-38 137
14 Jim Gott 7.62 340.0 1990 1994 30-34 272
15 Jay Howell 7.59 308.1 1988 1992 32-36 236
Kuo's recent injury woes

2008 - After throwing 78 1/3 innings in five months, pitched only twice between September 1 and the playoffs, mostly due to inflammation in his oft-operated-upon left elbow.

2009 - Missed nearly three months (all of May and June, most of July) with a possible injury and combating the "yips". Wound up pitching only 30 innings.

2010 - Began the season on the 15-day disabled-list with elbow soreness, returned April 22, finished the season as the closer, accruing 60 innings pitched overall.

Kuo's work ethic is much admired in Dodger circles. As Ken Gurnick wrote last season:

His daily therapy regimen is legendary among any who've witnessed it, starting at 12:30 p.m. for a 7:10 night game.

"I wish you guys could see what he puts himself through," said Conte. "He's in constant motion until 11 at night -- ice, heat, ultrasound, message, stretch, flex, leg work, working all the time just to pitch an inning."

Kuo the Batsman

Kuo is also the first Taiwanese player to hit a home run in the major leagues, delivering a 412-foot shot on June 12, 2007 as the last of back-to-back-to-back home runs bombed off the Mets John Maine. He delivered it with a gunslinger's panache, concluding his follow-through with a bat flip for the ages. (The first homer was hit by Boom-Boom Betemit, then Matt Kemp lowered the boom with a prodigious drive to the left field Loge. All can be seen on the linked video.)

Trivia

Kuo signed with the Dodgers in 1999, making him the current player with the longest tenure in the Dodger organization.

I wonder what fee Kuo commanded as pitchman for Subway in Taiwan.

And I'm pretty sure that I peeked closely into Kuo's locker and saw this.

Contract Status

Kuo recently avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $2.725 million contract, plus incentives, a deal that is more than his previous major league career earnings (around $2.5M - he did also receive a $1.25M bonus when he signed in 1999). Kuo has one more arbitration year remaining, then he will be eligible for free agency for the 2013 season.

Stats

Year Age IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP x-FIP tERA ERA+ WHIP
2008 26 80.0 2.36 10.80 2.14 2.28 2.76 2.45 196 1.013
2009 27 30.0 3.90 9.60 3.00 3.33 3.74 3.10 135 1.133
2010 28 60.0 2.70 10.95 1.20 1.81 3.12 1.33 321 0.783
2011 Projections - Age 29 Season



Year
IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP WHIP xERA
Bill James 29
66.0 3.41 10.64 2.45 2.73 1.14



Marcel 29
58.0 3.10 9.31 2.87 3.05 1.12



Baseball HQ 29
65.0
3.1
10.4
2.63

3.14


ZiPS 29
56.3
2.88
10.86
2.40




2011 Outlook

Seems like the disabled list visit for Kuo is not a matter of if, but when. Let's just hope that his stay is for just the minimum fifteen days. My conjecture is that Kuo will pitch another 60.0 innings this season, put up an ERA of 2.20 and a WHIP of 1.11, providing another season of effective left-handed relief for the Dodgers. What's your prediction? Give us your guess for ERA, WHIP, and innings pitched in the comments, and feel free to add any other predictions you have as well.

(actual statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and baseball-reference.com)

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