Korean star has fallen on tough times in TexasIt hurts to see my favorite player in a hole that looks to be getting deeper and deeper. Park Chan-ho has a 2-4 record with a 5.80 ERA; he’s on the DL and skipper Bug Showalter hasn’t set a concrete date for him to come back.
I’ll be honest: the year 2000 looks like an awfully long time ago. And when reflecting back on that season, I have to shake my head in disbelief. It was the best year Park ever had in the majors; he posted an 18-10 record and a 3.27 ERA. Park’s fastball had some bite back then; he fanned 217 batters that season.
Today, his back problems seemed to have returned, although the team doctor has cleared him to play. His fastball, which looked as if it had its bite back at the beginning of the season, now looks flat. The result is that his slurve does not have the desired effect.
A slurve is a cross between a curve and a slider; it breaks like a slider from side to side, but not as hard. Park utilized this pitch, combined with his fastball, to great effect. Without the heat of his fastball of old, the slurve has become predictable ― a pitch on which batters can sit and wait. This led to Park giving up 13 home runs, as his stuff just stayed in the batter’s power zone. Even low and away balls were hammered out of the park, because they hung over the plate. That, or batters just kept waiting.
Park was never a control pitcher. The high number of free tickets he issued to first base, along with his hit by pitch numbers, are proof enough of that. Yet at this stage of his career, I am starting to think that maybe it’s time he start working on that aspect of his game.
Park got in trouble numerous times when he fell behind in the count. Now, great pitchers like Greg Maddux can fall behind in a count and still throw a strike by hitting the corners consistently. By using an imaginary lane on both sides of the plate and leaving the middle to the batter, a pitcher can take control. Batters try to lean over the plate to get to the outside lanes, but then the pitcher comes back on the inside to keep them honest. The initiative is on the pitcher’s side, and that counts for a lot.
We know Park isn’t Maddux and probably never will be. But what he can do is try to throw a lot of balls that look like strikes. Having good control doesn’t just mean being able to extend the strike zone and locate the ball well. It also means that you can throw “illusionary strikes” that are as good as the real ones.
Park still has the talent that got him to the big show in the first place. He’s not first-string starting material anymore, but certainly good enough to anchor the middle of a rotation. The Rangers made a big investment in Park and things haven’t turned out well. It is for this reason he shouldn’t expect any friendly press in Texas.
But that should not be the focus. What’s important right now for Park is getting a few wins under his belt. That, and finding a pitching style that can prolong his career. Whether it’s the way he uses his fingers or where he stands on the mound, Park needs to find out what’s best for him.
by Brian Lee