Should the Pirates Bring Chan Ho Park Back?
On August 4th, the Pittsburgh Pirates made two low-key waiver claims which turned out to be shrewd moves. They claimed Chris Resop from the Atlanta Braves, and Chan Ho Park from the New York Yankees. Resop went on to pitch 19 innings for the Pirates, with a 1.89 ERA, an 11.4 K/9, and a 4.7 BB/9. It was a small sample, but only Joel Hanrahan had a better strikeout ratio among Pirates relievers this year, showing why many people feel Resop should be a lock to return next year.
What about Chan Ho Park though? Park had a rough season in New York, then got off to a rough start with the Pirates, allowing six earned runs in his first five innings, spread over five appearances. Park settled down, pitching 5.1 shutout innings to close out the month of August. In September he continued his strong run, pitching 18 innings in 15 appearances, and putting up a 2.50 ERA, an 8.0 K/9, and a 2.0 BB/9 ratio.
The difference between Park and Resop this year was that Resop had a lot of success in AAA before coming to the Pirates and putting up his strong numbers. Park had a very disappointing season with the Yankees, with a 5.60 ERA in 35.1 innings, along with a 7.4 K/9, a 3.1 BB/9, and a 1.8 HR/9 ratio. With the Pirates he lowered his walks by one per nine innings, and lowered his home run rate by over a home run per nine innings. However, because he had the poor start in New York, many question whether his performance with the Pirates was legit.
There is one trend that points to Park’s success being legit, and that is his AL/NL splits. Park has a career 3.98 ERA in 1577 innings in the National League. That’s compared to a 5.78 ERA in 416 innings in the American League. It should be noted that Park hasn’t had the most favorable pitching situations in the American League. He pitched for three and a half years in Texas, followed by half a season with the Yankees this year.
Park also hasn’t been strong with every National League team. After leaving Texas, Park pitched a year and a half in San Diego, with a 5.08 ERA in 182.1 combined innings. He went to the New York Mets in 2007, allowed seven runs in four innings, and was eventually released. Park was used as a starter during those seasons, but he made a successful transition to the bullpen in 2008.
Park returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008, where he spent the first nine years of his major league career. He made 54 appearances, with just five starts, and put up a 3.40 ERA in 95.1 innings. The following season he went to the Philadelphia Phillies, putting up a 4.43 ERA in 83.1 innings, with 45 appearances, and only seven starts. Park had a 3.84 ERA in 70.1 innings as a reliever in 2008, and a 2.52 ERA in 50 innings as a reliever in 2009.
Park turns 38 next June, and will be a free agent this off-season, which raises two concerns. The first concern is that Park will probably cost around the $1.2 M salary that he received this year. That’s not so bad looking at his performance the past few years, but the bigger concern is his age, and how much he has left in the tank. Park has pitched parts of 17 seasons in the majors, and is seven innings shy of 2000 career innings.
The Pirates have Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan holding down the back end of the bullpen in 2011. Chris Resop looks like he could be a strong seventh inning man, but that’s the extent of the bullpen picture, unless you consider Jeff Karstens a potential long reliever/spot starter. The Pirates are most likely going to have to search for at least one reliever this off-season. Park had success with them this year, and his success definitely doesn’t look like a fluke when you look at his numbers with the Phillies and Dodgers in 2008 and 2009. I never thought I would say this when he was acquired, but it would be a smart move for the Pirates to bring Park back next season.