Yesterday the Yankees made an interesting move and added Chan Ho Park to the roster for $1.2 million and $300,000 in incentives. This gives them some options regarding Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes and could result in one going to Triple-A to start the year. The question is does Park really bring anything to the Yankees?
Park is one of those players who benefited early in his career from park factors in Dodger Stadium from 1996-2001, long before FIP or QERA was around to let the masses see what was really going on. His FIP in LA was 4.33, but he looked much better with an ERA of 3.77 and clearly a factor of his low number of home runs against.
In 2002 he moved to Texas and things have never been the same. His ERA since leaving has been 5.22, but in a very small sample size of 50 IP last year he looked to turn things around. Was this change for real giving the Yankees a new bullpen threat or was it nothing but sample size issues and a regression in Yankee Stadium sure to come?
His K/BB was a big step forward as a reliever in 2009 at 3.25 his best ever by far. Most starters will have a jump in K/BB, but at a career rate of 1.87 his jump was much to large.
This also wasn’t his first run at relief pitching and in a total of 196 IP as a reliever he has a K/BB of 2.04. Sounds like 2009 was a bit of a fluke. His HR/FB was only 6.3 percent and when that comes crashing back in New York he’ll be a different pitcher.
His skills will be better served as a reliever, but he isn’t the answer in New York. If they use Park to get Hughes or Chamberlain time in Triple-A then they will be both overpaying and hurting themselves.
I don’t see any reason to agree with Joe Pawlikowski at FanGraphs that “There’s a chance, though, that Park continues to keep fly balls in the park at a below league average rate. It won’t be zero, but if Park can continue what he did in 2009, he might keep that HR/FB low.”
That seems like wishful thinking based on a small sample. His 2009 HR/9 as a reliever was great since he never gave one up. That is less impressive when you add in his full career and compare to his time as a starter. He has a HR/9 as a starter of 1.05 and 0.87 as a reliever. In only 196 IP that is four homers difference between the two. Hardly a significant amount.
The one change I could see in his Pitch F/x of note was his release point. If you look below his release point was more vertical in the role of starter and moved to a 3/4 type slot as a reliever. This is more something to note and not really confirming anything. Often a arm slot change can show injury, but with a role change that could have changed as well.
Even if this was a change it’s going to take a lot of faith to believe a 36 year old pitcher suddenly figured it all out and will be just as good in his next 50 IP as a reliever as his last 50. I’ll side with regression in this case and say he goes back to the averages of his career as a reliever.
Obviously a $1.2 million dollar deal is pocket change to the Yankees and they could catch “lightning in a bottle”, but the money says Park is not a significant contributor to their team. If Girardi sticks with the veteran in this case though it looks like the Red Sox should be glad to see Park in New York.