I Don't Know, You Guys

He's fine until he starts actually pitching

Hong-Chih Kuo is left-handed and not old. Two years ago, he was one of the best relievers in baseball. Two years before that, he was one of the best relievers in baseball. In between, he was fine, but just a little hurt. Towards the very end of the 2011-2012 offseason, the Seattle Mariners signed him to a small contract. It seemed at the time that the Kuo experiment had big upside, but maybe now we're beginning to understand why Kuo was available at that time and at that price.

Ignoring the intrasquads, Kuo has made six Cactus League appearances for the Mariners so far. He pitched again today, in the fifth inning against the White Sox. Here are his runs allowed over those appearances:

  • 2
  • 3
  • 2
  • 0
  • 3
  • 4

If Kuo were a starting pitcher, those numbers might be acceptable. Kuo is a short reliever. He's thrown 6⅔ innings. He's already allowed as many runs this month as he allowed between 4/25/2009 and the end of the 2010 season. He leads the Majors in runs allowed this month. I will repeat for effect that he is a short reliever.

I know that runs allowed can be misleading. It's not like this is just about runs allowed. Kuo hasn't thrown enough strikes. He's already given up five homers. His velocity is down, and he's nowhere particularly close to the 94mph he threw when he was awesome for the Dodgers.

Hong-Chih Kuo is a wreck, and as dismissive as we usually are with spring training statistics, Kuo isn't George Sherrill. He's not coming off a good year, and he doesn't have a track record of doing this and then turning it on when the season gets going. The Mariners signed Kuo hoping that he would look something like his old self in March. I guess you could say that he's looked like his very old self, in that he's pitched like he might've pitched when he was 14.

I thought Kuo would break camp in the bullpen, but now I'd be surprised, because he looks like crap, and as much as I want for him to succeed, I don't want him on the mound in a game that matters. It's more like I want to root for him to succeed with some other team. The idea was good, I have no problem with the idea of signing Hong-Chih Kuo, but some ideas don't work out. This one doesn't look like it's going to work out.

Who might benefit from Kuo's continued problems? The answer is "any number of guys", but I can't help but notice that Lucas Luetge has a walk and seven strikeouts in five innings. He's left-handed, and he's on the 40-man roster. And you guys all wrote him off! That'll teach you something about assumptions.

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