Park Chan-ho is throwing strikes in his contract yearForget that Park Chan-ho, starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres got pummeled in his last game against the Seattle Mariners. No, wait. We should say forget the second inning of that game, in which he gave up seven runs as he left pitch after pitch hanging over the plate. Because other than that, he managed to stay on until the sixth inning and save the bullpen from too much extra work.
That loss ballooned his ERA from 3.27 to 4.53 and left him with a 2-2 record this season. But what those numbers don’t tell is that Park is due for a solid season.
Prior to the game against the Mariners, Park had only given up one earned run in his last 22 innings.
One of the main reasons Park is on the verge of reviving his career is that he has regained the confidence he had when he was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. When he is now on the pitching mound, he goes straight to work. There is no touching his hat, no walking around the mound, no fiddling with his hands, habits he displayed in the last couple of seasons when he was with the Texas Rangers.
Although he has lost 3-4 miles per hour of the velocity of his prime, he has also finally figured out how to better use his experience and improved control.
One other major reason for Park’s solid performance is the fact that he has started to gel with catcher Josh Bard. The pitcher needs only to follow the lead of his catcher and should worry more about his pitching mechanism.
It’s noticeable that Park has thrown aggressively, aiming for a first-pitch strike often. For me, throwing a first-pitch strike is dogma, something that should not change. A first strike gives Park the opportunity to set up his pitches instead of having to revert to his fastball, when he is behind in the count. In the past couple of seasons, hitters waited on Park to fall behind in the count and then crush his diminished fastball.
With a solid defense playing behind him, Park will probably get 10 to 15 wins, as he is playing for a new contract next year. Clubs will be reluctant to give him another long-term deal, but for the right price the Padres will go after him. Park has showed he can do the job in the National League. Why tinker with something that works?
by Brian Lee
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