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2007 Bullpen Preview: Chan Ho Park

Mike SteffanosSaturday, February 10, 2007
By Mike Steffanos


Yesterday, the Mets signed Korean right-hander Chan Ho Park to an incentive laden 1-year contract. The guaranteed money is only $600,000 -- chump change in today's MLB -- but the incentives for innings pitched could raise the deal to a reported $3 million. Although Park's agent feels that Chan Ho is "penciled in right now as [the Mets'] No. 3 starter," that might be the extreme optimistic view of the signing.

In an article in the New York Post, Mark Hale offers an opinion from an unnamed National League executive who thought Park "should be a good pickup" given the relatively low dollar risk, and offered the following assessment of the 33-year-old pitcher:

The executive also said Park "has become more of a finesse pitcher than a power pitcher in years past." The exec said Park is not exactly steady, that his "velocity really fluctuates from inning to inning," that the pitcher is "still inconsistent from start to start" and "at times pitches like a front-end-of-the-rotation starter and other times looks like a spot starter at best."

A look at Park's stats going back to his breakout season with the Dodgers in 1997 confirms that his strikeout number have dropped over the last few years:

Chan Ho Park Major League Stats 1997-2006
Year-Team G GS Innings Hits/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA AVG OBP SLG
1997 - Dodgers 32 29 192.0 7.0 7.8 3.3 1.1 3.38 .213 .290 .354
1998 - Dodgers 34 34 220.2 8.1 7.8 4.0 0.7 3.71 .244 .328 .362
1999 - Dodgers 33 33 194.1 9.6 8.1 4.6 1.4 5.23 .276 .369 .472
2000 - Dodgers 34 34 226.0 6.9 8.6 4.9 0.8 3.27 .214 .326 .344
2001 - Dodgers 36 35 234.0 7.0 8.4 3.5 0.9 3.50 .216 .305 .358
2002 - Texas 25 25 145.2 9.5 7.5 4.8 1.2 5.75 .273 .376 .468
2003 - Texas 7 7 29.2 10.3 4.9 7.6 1.5 7.58 .306 .448 .477
2004 - Texas 16 16 95.2 9.9 5.9 3.1 2.1 5.46 .281 .356 .508
2005 - Texas 20 20 109.2 10.7 6.6 4.4 0.7 5.66 .299 .382 .439
2005 - San Diego 10 9 45.2 9.9 6.5 5.1 0.6 5.91 .278 .379 .378
2006 - San Diego 24 21 136.2 9.6 6.3 2.9 1.3 4.81 .271 .336 .455

MLB Totals 323 274 1,746.2 8.3 7.8 4.2 1.0 4.37 .247 .340 .400

They also show that, even at his best, Park was a rather erratic pitcher who had some control problems. They also demonstrate just how little Tom Hicks and the Rangers received for the five-year, $65 million contract they handed Park in 2002. The 155-1/3 combined innings Park pitched with Texas and San Diego in 2005 was the highest total he reached over these five seasons -- although he would have bettered it last year if he hadn't missed most of the last two months of the season after surgery to correct a rare condition that caused intestinal bleeding. Last year's 4.81 ERA was the lowest it's been since leaving the Dodgers, but wasn't particularly impressive given San Diego's Petco Park is one of the best pitcher's ballparks in baseball. In 69 innings at home Park pitched to a 4.17 ERA, while in 68 road innings it ballooned to 5.45.

As lackluster as his numbers were in 2006, the Rangers would have undoubtedly been happy to receive that much from Park in return for the millions invested. This scouting report going into the 2005 season says it all:

2004 Season
Year 3 of the Chan Ho Park mega-contract produced the same old results. He struggled with command. He got lit up by opponents. He spent significant time on the disabled list. And in the end, he was more of a liability to the Rangers than an asset to their pitching staff. He topped it off by throwing several pitches at Anaheim players in a key late-season game that cost him the respect of several teammates.

Pitching
Park has struggled to get anybody out since his velocity took a downward turn in 2002. He got some of the velocity back, but had no command. The results were ugly. When he tried to control the inside part of the plate, he'd hit a batter (13 in 95.2 innings last season). Then he'd get too cautious and leave his middling stuff up and over the middle part of the plate. It resulted in 22 homers. In a 200-inning season, that would be a 46-homer pace.

2005 Outlook
There are two more years left on Park's unwieldy contract, which, for all intents and purposes, make him unmovable. The Rangers long ago gave up hope that Park would be a staff ace. They'd simply settle for a 30-start, 200-inning season in which he regularly gave them a chance to compete. Even asking that, however, may be wishful thinking, given Park's track record in Texas and his five trips to the DL over the last three years.

By rebounding back to a point within spitting distance of mediocrity last year, Park has actually come quite a distance up from those lost years in Texas. Now the real question is how much he has left. A look at his month-by-month stats from last season actually hold out some hope:

Chan Ho Park By Month 2006
Month G GS Innings ERA Hits/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 AVG OBP SLG
April 6 4 30.1 5.34 11.0 7.1 1.8 1.2 .294 .326 .476
May 5 5 33.1 4.05 8.1 4.4 3.0 0.5 .238 .322 .333
June 6 6 38.1 3.76 7.5 6.8 3.1 1.6 .222 .291 .438
July 4 4 24.1 5.92 11.8 6.3 3.0 1.5 .330 .394 .515
August 2 2 10.1 5.23 11.3 5.2 4.4 2.6 .302 .375 .605
Sept/Oct 1 0 0.0 INF - - - - 1.000 1.000 2.000

He had a couple of really solid months in May and June. Hard to say how much the intestinal bleeding that would ultimately require surgery affected him after that, but if he could give the Mets a couple of good months similar to what he gave the Padres last season, that could well be enough to carry them until they feel comfortable bringing younger guys up to New York. While it's probably totally unreasonable to anticipate a return to his form from six seasons ago in Los Angeles, or even expecting this 33-year-old to survive a full season of starting games, a couple of good months from Chan Ho Park isn't a completely irrational hope.

Geoff Young, who authors the excellent Ducksnorts blog on the Padres was kind enough to offer this scouting report on Chan Ho Park:

Park was a tremendous surprise last season. He did a great job for South Korea in the World Baseball Classic and it seemed to work wonders for his confidence. For the first time since coming to San Diego, he was attacking hitters in 2006. Park's stuff is nothing special -- low-90s fastball without a lot of movement, decent curve -- but he generally did a good job of keeping the Padres in games. Park had a nasty intestinal problem last year that required surgery, and it dragged him down a lot as the season wore on. If you look at his first-half performance, I think that's a better indication of what he's capable of doing. The Mets got him at a great price. A lot of us were hoping Park would return with the Padres, but once David Wells signed, the best they could give him was a shot at the bullpen and it sounds like Park wanted to start. Maybe having low expectations played a part, but he ended up being a lot more useful than I'd expected. I think (and hope) he'll do well for you guys.

If Park doesn't win a rotation job he is, of course, a candidate for the long relief/spot starter role in the bullpen. I have a feeling, however, that if he doesn't win a rotation job out of training camp he'll probably seek employment elsewhere. One of the most intriguing things about the upcoming training camp is that the Mets will have to make some of their pitching decisions very quickly. There are too many jobs up for grabs, and too many arms in the mix, to have a competition based strictly on performance all spring. You would think that the experienced guys like Park would have somewhat of an advantage coming out of the gate, while younger pitchers (who still have options left) would await the call in New Orleans if he can't cut it.

Note: This preview was updated 2/12/2007 with Geoff Young's scouting report.


2007 Bullpen Previews:
Jon Adkins
Adam Bostick
Ambiorix Burgos
Marcos Carvajal
Pedro Feliciano
Aaron Heilman
Guillermo Mota
Clint Nageotte
Juan Padilla
Chan Ho Park (This Article)
Duaner Sanchez
Steve Schmoll
Scott Schoeneweis
Aaron Sele
Joe Smith
Jorge Sosa
Billy Wagner
Other Candidates
Four Other Names for You

2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (13)

Mike:

>One of the most intriguing things about the upcoming training camp is that the Mets will have to make some of their pitching decisions very quickly. There are too many jobs up for grabs, and too many arms in the mix, to have a competition based strictly on performance all spring.

Yes indeedy. I only hope the Mets know it too.

Park's not making the rotation without a really good outta-the-gate splash. Too many young/hungry arms wanting in, and a vet or two who're after the same thing he is: validation and sticking around with a contender. If he's good, who loses? If he's not: "Next!"

This guy is going to have to win a spot, just like anyone else, with the way the contract is structured, they can let him go without losing much. But I can see a scenario where he is given the job to allow time for guys like Pelfrey and Humber to develop in the minors. Who knows, maybe its something mechanical and the wizard that is rick peterson waves his wand and fixes him. Doubtful, but I agree, a couple months of Park could be a good thing, but anything more would be very wishful thinking.

I'm hoping that Vargas gets an opportunity to show 'em something, and that he capitalizes on the moment.

And if not, that he has a great May in New Orleans. He ought to be in the mix at some point.

I'm kind of with dd, in that I'd love to see a young guy like Vargas step up. Guys like Park can buy you some time, but I'd rather see the Mets develop something for the future.

I think a guy like Park can help season the young guns, by giving them some time on the farm. I dream of a starting rotation with all our young guys in it or following a ace we get someplace. I don't think we have to rush anybody and guys like Park can give us some time to fine tune.

Never mind, I just said what you said.

Yeah, but you said it so well...

Sele , Sosa , Park . Will any of them be with the Mets in 2008 ? I doubt it . And as for our Young Arms , Pelfrey , Humber , and Vargas , when will Met Management take the Leap of Faith needed to establish their starting rotation for years to come with those guys ? 2007 is the year to do it IMO , but I see the Mets are having Cold Feet trying to decide if they should give them their shot at it right now ............ Sigh .

Thanks for the nice statistics on Park, Mike!

A couple of simple questions for anyone out there who watched this guy pitch last year and remembers what he looked like:

1) There was a quote about how his velocity fluctuates from inning to inning. This is a bit disturbing. When he's on how hard does he throw and how many mph will he lose on his pitches when he's off?

2) Mike you said he throws basically 3 pitches: fastball, slider, change. Does one of those 3 pitches stand out? Does he get strikeouts with one pitch in particular?

3) Looks like the guy was pretty damn solid in the month of June. Wonder what he was doing right then than wasn't working for him in July and August.

Any insights?

Are you still taking offerings, Mike? Then I'll mention an article on the Mets pitching prospects by Tim Marchman in the NY Sun. Marchman appreciates what the Mets are doing in general.

He is less sanguine on Chan Ho Park's outlook. Twenty home runs allowed in 136 innings, while pitching in San Diego. Oy.

Mark - I think they're just trying to hedge their bets. I do think that Mike Pelfrey and Phil Humber can both establish themselves this year -- but one or both might wind up coming up later in the season.
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Chris - I haven't seen Park pitch since he was with the Dodgers. He had a fairly live fastball back then. I contacted a very good Padre blogger for a scouting report on Chan Ho Park last year. If he gets back with anything I'll post it here.
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dd - I take anything I can get, seriously.

I read Marchman's article. I don't think I'm overly optimistic about Park putting together a solid year -- I'm hoping a month or two.

I had Meckle's Diverticulum surgery Aug. 27 last year. I think it is great the way Chan Ho was able to return so quickly. I am 13 now and I also pitch. I would love the chance to meet Mr. Park and chat with him. Best of luck.

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