Park’s speed back, but not his controlOn Saturday, Park Chan-ho notched his first victory of the season as the Texas Rangers beat the Seattle Mariners.
Though he won, the victory was as ugly as it gets for Park, and the game revealed everything that is wrong with his pitching these days.
At the beginning of the season I said that Park would pile up about 15 wins this season, provided he found his fastball.
In the game against the Mariners, the fastest ball that Park threw clocked in around 151 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour), so the fastball was there.
What wasn’t there, however, was an ability to throw the ball where he wanted. All told, Park walked eight batters, hit one and got called for a balk. All that happened in only five innings.
The way he dished out the bases on balls the Mariners must have been pleased. In the first inning, using just nine pitches, he managed to walk the first two batters. Thanks to Park’s freebies, the Mariners loaded the bases that inning. It was only an excellent sliding catch by Carl Everett that got Park out of the inning without giving up any runs.
In the second inning, Park continued to live dangerously, walking two and loading the bases again.
Park didn’t disappoint Seattle’s fans in the third inning, for he gave out two more free passes.
By the end of the fourth, seven Mariners had gotten bases on balls, while Park decided to send Brett Boone straight to first base by plunking him in the back.
By the fourth inning, Park had thrown nearly 100 pitches.
Nevertheless, the Mariners didn’t take advantage of the gifts Park was handing out, and by stranding 14 runners, they managed to lose the game 4-2.
Park gained this initial victory in a game that even his teammate Alex Rodriguez called “weird.”
To sum up the weirdness, Park threw 114 pitches, 63 for strikes. With the kind of money Park makes, he is expected to throw 65 to 70 percent of his pitches in the strike zone.
He walked lead-off hitters ― that’s a no-no. He walked batters with two outs in the inning ― that’s another no-no. He didn’t (or couldn’t) throw strikes. He often fell behind in the ball count because his first pitches often were balls.
Not being able to aim his fastball with any accuracy, Park put himself in many full-count situations, without having anything in his arsenal to give the batters a real challenge.
If you watched closely, you may have noticed that his pitching form changed from time to time. Sometimes he didn’t raise his left knee much; other times, he lifted it up high.
You can’t expect good ball control when you have an inconsistent throwing mechanism.
If you want to find some hope in all this mess, it’s the occasional strikeout that he threw at a critical time, especially when the bases were loaded. It shows that he still has the mental ability to keep his cool and the control, if only in spurts, to work himself out of jams on his own.
Relearning how to maintain ball control, and not just in spurts, will be necessary if Park hopes to return to his old form.
by Brian Lee
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