Diamondbacks All-Time Top 10. #9. Byung-Hyun Kim.


Byung-Hyun Kim

Acquired: 2/19/1999. Signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as an amateur free agent.
Career with AZ: 243 games, 21-22, 3.26 ERA, 70 saves
Best year 2002: 72 games, 8-3, 2.04 ERA, 36 saves
Records: Games pitched (243). Single-season saves (36, 2002).
Other facts: 380 K in 328 IP. 2nd in saves (70), 5th in K's (380) 9th in IP (323). 2nd in single season games (78, 2001).
Biggest moment: Three guesses.
Departed: 5/29/2003. Traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Boston Red Sox for Shea Hillenbrand.

This one is likely a contentious choice, since the picture above summarises what Kim is best known for - blowing two consecutive World Series games in Yankee Stadium. But this overshadows the fact that he was, in the main, a solid reliever and good closer. For example, often forgotten is that, before those two appearances in the World Series, he'd thrown 6.1 post-season innings and allowed only one hit.

Of course, in the end those blown games merely set up Game 7. And Kim bounced back superbly in 2002, getting a trip to the All-Star Game on his way to a franchise record 36 saves. And he did all this by the age of only 23, while living in a land whose language he didn't initially speak. Hell, he only escaped the Korean draft by winning an Asian Games gold medal.

Certainly, he had his failures, on the biggest stage imaginable. But when he was on - and, speaking objectively, that was most of the time - his submarine delivery was basically unhittable. For every wince-inducing walkfest, there was a day no-one could touch him. His K/9 figure is beaten only by the Big Unit among AZ pitchers with 150+ innings, and at his peak moments, he was certainly among the best arms we've seen in the desert.

Had history been slightly different - if we'd lost Game 7, for example - he might go down as the franchise's biggest villain. And if Jose Valverde has another stellar season, Kim might be replaced by Papa Grande in this list as the best AZ closer, come the end of 2006. But history is written by winners, and Kim's role should not be limited to Games 5 + 6 in Yankee Stadium.

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