This has been a pretty crazy day here, and I apologize for not getting a post up about Chan Ho Park’s apparent agreement with the Yankees earlier in the day. With the Olympics going on, and Monday being the 30th anniversary of a pretty famous Olympic hockey game, I’ve been busy with some other duties the last few days.
That said, I’ve had some time to think about the Park signing, and honestly, I wonder if Park can possibly be used the way he needs to.
I like the way Park threw last season. He was dialing his fastball up beyond the mid-90s in the postseason last year, and he rather inarguably was the Phillies’ best pitcher out of the pen in the World Series. I also get the idea that, at somewhere between $1.2 million and $1.5 million, there’s zero harm in bringing the guy in. Money is not the issue here, and I honestly think Park is a bargain at $1.5 million.
There are two things I’d worry about, though, purely from a performance perspective, if I were the Yankees:
1.) Is the Chan Ho Park from the postseason the real Chan Ho Park?
If you look at his career splits as a starter and a reliever, Park doesn’t look like a dominant, late-inning reliever who can come in firing fastballs by hitters.
His ERA goes down slightly from his spotty work as a starter, and his strikeout rate goes slightly up. But his WHIP is still a rather bloated 1.42.
Besides all that, he didn’t throw as hard last year during the regular season as he did during the playoffs. I don’t know what that means. Maybe he threw a lot more two-seamers than four-seamers. I don’t know. But anyone who falls in love with the guy blowing away hitters in the World Series might be falling in love with a pitcher they’re not getting.
No question, if you look at his splits from 2009, Park was an incredibly effective reliever, with a 2.52 ERA and 1.18 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning. But he’s 36, and he wasn’t as incredibly effective in 2008 or 2006 as he was in 2009.
With a 30-year-old pitcher, such a big jump in production doesn’t bother me. With a 36-year-old, it does. It makes me wonder if he caught lightning in a bottle one last time because, generally, pitchers don’t start getting more dominant at age 37.
2.) What is Park’s role if he’s not as great as he was in 2009?
Here’s why nobody can question the signing of Park: He’s really only taking the spot that would have been occupied by the Yankees’ extra long reliever. Which is no big deal, considering an extra long reliever is a luxury even the Yankees don’t need to have.
Still, I don’t know what a merely decent Chan Ho Park’s role will be out of this bullpen.
He won’t close, obviously, and what are the odds that the loser of the Hughes-Chamberlain battle isn’t the eighth-inning guy? I think Park might get a look in the seventh inning, but only if David Robertson falters out of the gate.
Joe Girardi said Monday that he most likely will take 12 pitchers, and while he prefers to have two lefties in the bullpen, he insists he’ll take the 12 best pitchers.
Presumably, the following will qualify:
You can add the following, if you believe Girardi wants the second lefty bad enough:
It brings up an interesting question: What do you want out of the 12th spot? And you can answer that by answering the following question: What role is Park going to fill?
I think Park probably profiles best as a guy who can throw one inning, two at most. His numbers as a starter the last few seasons have been, to put it nicely, not good. So, the long relief role would seem to be better left to Chad Gaudin or Alfredo Aceves.
Given that, the rest of the bullpen is loaded with power, one-inning type arms. And the starting rotation has four pitchers that regularly work into the seventh inning with leads.
Question is, is Chan Ho Park going to be the Yankees’ top option in the seventh inning with the lead? If not, when is he going to pitch?
I know…I know…he’ll get his work in. It always seems to work out that way. Park will get some work here and there, and he’ll stay sharp enough, and if one of the young pitchers comprising the bridge to Mariano Rivera shows he’s fallible, Park can get a look in that spot.
He’s a “just in case” guy. That’s his role. The Yankees, after all, can afford a modestly priced “just in case” guy.
It’s weird, though. I like Park. I think he’s underrated, in the sense that he’s a decent reliever and most people still think of him as a lousy starter who the Rangers overpaid years ago. I see him making the team easily. I just don’t see him making a great impact. Basically, I think the Yankees got a better version of Brian Bruney to pitch Brian Bruney’s innings.
Thing is, Brian Bruney’s innings didn’t come at important times down the stretch.