Fastballs work, even if they’re slow

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Fastballs work, even if they’re slow

Now that the All-Star game is over, I think it’s time to wrap up the first half of the season and take a look at what’s coming for some of the Korean major leaguers.
Ahem, but before I do that I shall admit to some of my wrong calls at the beginning of this season, so that I may start over with a clean slate.
All right, I blew it big time on Park Chan-ho, whose nonperformance was just plain bad.
I can only defend myself by saying I did not follow the crowd when they were all busy bashing him while his season tumbled downhill. Nope, that I didn’t do because I truly believed in him. Not that I think he’s a grade-A pitcher; I think he belongs in the B category with an occasional flash that adds a plus sign to it.
Somehow, thinking he was in his prime, I predicted he’d pile up 17 wins this season. Well, I ignored the fact that many athletes perform quite poorly just after landing a hefty contract.
Anyway, now that we know that Park suffered from an injury and only worsened it by continuing to play, I think he’ll take a rest for the remainder of the season and do some rehab. Provided it is successful ― and he finds his fastball and confidence ― he just might return to his old self.
I don’t think Park needs to have his 94-mile (151-kilometer) an hour fastball back to be able to throw in the majors with some measure of success.
If you are not a tall, towering Randy Johnson with the speed and a killer angle to put fear into batters’ minds even before they step in the batter’s box, velocity is not the most important element in a fastball (despite its name).
If Park can apply enough movement on it, his current 90-mph fastball is ample artillery to do the job. Park never was a control pitcher; he never exercised good control and gave out too many bases on balls.
The moment he tries to be a control pitcher, because he has lost his velocity, it will be difficult for him to come back. Instead, he should try to rebound with a slower fastball, over which he has exceptional control.
It’s safe to say that nobody will be interested in picking up Park’s salary to gamble on his comeback. The Rangers are stuck with him, so they had better concentrate on getting the guy on track.
He won’t be Kevin Brown, the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who made a successful comeback this season. But I still see him as someone who can hand the team 10 wins. For his price tag that’s too little, but hey, it’s better than nothing and for a Ranger pitcher that’s pretty good.
Now for Boston Red Sox closer Kim Byung-hyun. I see him piling up some decent numbers comparable to last season when he posted 36 saves.
Nevertheless, I’m afraid he might blow some important games because he still likes to challenge hitters when he shouldn’t. I hope he has learned from his mistakes ― especially when he faces the New York Yankees.
Cool your head, I’d tell him, especially when you face lefties. His odd-angled fastball may intimidate right-handed batters, the way it tails into them, but against lefties it’s another story ― rather flat without a bite.
Kim’s stats will tell you he can strike ‘em out, but he should throw the bullets only when necessary and use his fielders more.

by Brian Lee
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