Apr
05

Trial By Fire: Chan Ho Park and the 7th inning

By

Photo Credit: Charles Krupa, AP

Last night’s game represented Phase I of a bullpen experiment. With 2009′s primary setup man moving into the rotation, Joe Girardi will have to go through the sometimes painful motions of figuring out who belongs where in the bullpen pecking order again this year. Much like 2009, David Robertson was brought into a sticky situation – a strikeout situation – in the 6th inning, but Girardi opted to deploy Chan Ho Park in the 7th inning even though Robertson had thrown just six pitches.

GM Brian Cashman did nothing but gush when he signed Chan Ho Park, and he certainly looked the part with six stellar spring outings (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K). Of course, Spring Training stats mean nothing, so Park’s audition for a late inning setup job started yesterday. Summoned out of the bullpen to face three guys who don’t exactly represent power threats (Marco Scutaro, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia), he didn’t just relinquish the Yanks’ two run lead, but he left the game with the go-ahead run in scoring position.

After sitting 93-95 with his fastball during his relief stint with the Phillies last year, Park sat 90-93 last night, which really isn’t that big of a deal since it’s April and it was his first outing for the year. Once the weather warms up and he gets some more innings in, he should be back up to normal velocity. More importantly, he was missing his spots big time. Just look at where Jorge Posada set up and where the pitch ended up on Pedroia’s homer. It was supposed to be a fastball down and away, probably to try and get a double play ball, but it ended up at the letters and out over the plate. Pedroia’s a good hitter, and he did what good hitters are supposed to do.

What I really want to touch on is why Park was brought into the game in that spot anyway. Robertson had thrown just those six pitches, and had plenty more in the tank if Girardi wanted to give him at least start the 7th. Instead, the manager needed to begin the process of figuring out who are going to be the team’s late inning, hold a small lead in a big game relievers. It’s not always going to pretty, and there will be plenty of times when such an audition costs the team a game, which is exactly what happened last night. But as we’ve seen in the past two years, we’re looking at short-terms losses for long-term gains.

Despite his fantastic spring and rock solid relief work for the Phillies last year, no one really knows what to expect out of Park in the AL East. He has the traits that lead you to believe he’ll be successful – he gets groundballs, throws strikes, can go multiple innings – but until we see him out there, we have no idea how he’ll respond. That’s why it’s important to get him out there in these kind of spots sooner rather than later. To make a decision and figure out his role as soon as possible. Will he continues to miss those spots, or is that just a function of throwing only seven starts in camp? It’s trial by fire, plain and simple.

Easing Park into it by starting him out in lower leveraged innings may sound like a good idea, but that just prolongs the process. He’s 36-years-old, not some rookie that has to learn the ropes. He should know the routine and know what’s expected of him. There’s no sense in dragging this out, run Park out there in this big spots in April and let’s see what he’s got. Is there a chance he’s the next LaTroy Hawkins? Sure, but right now we have no idea. He didn’t get off to a good start last night, but one outing and 22 pitches isn’t enough of anything to base a decision on. He’ll get another chance to prove himself, probably this series, and that’s just the next step in determining his value to the 2010 New York Yankees.

Categories : Death by Bullpen

82 Comments»

  1. Robertson had thrown just those six pitches, and had plenty more in the tank if Girardi wanted to give him at least start the 7th. Instead, the manager needed to begin the process of figuring out who are going to be the team’s late inning, hold a small lead in a big game relievers.

    What I do not like is that, even though we’re in the “testing out” phase, CHP was (is?) presumed to be higher in the pecking order than Robertson.

  2. Accent Shallow says:

    I have zero faith in Park. The Yankees dumped three guys prior to Opening Day who I’d rather see in his spot — Bruney, Edwar, and Gaudin.

    Hopefully he proves me wrong, but I’d rather see him off the roster by the trade deadline.

  3. I think he’ll end up just fine. Not lights-out but a pitcher who is solid. And that’s about all you can ask for from a bullpen arm.

  4. Jake H says:

    For me I think Park should be behind Robertson on the pecking order. I trust him in a big spot a lot more than Park.

    • Spaceman.Spiff says:

      I think Robertson’s spot was the bigger spot if you think about it. Girardi obviously trusted him to get the strikeout more than any pitcher in the pen. I question that he didn’t let Robertson start the 7th but maybe he didn’t want to have to let a baserunner on and bring in a reliever not at the start of the inning. There a ton of factors that probably went into the decision so let’s not freak out already; one outing does not make a season.

    • Peter LaFleur: White, we didn’t come here to “rumble”. We came here to celebrate as a team. There’s plenty of bar here for you and the Globo-nauts.
      White Goodman: (laughing) Team? What team? Your best player thinks he’s a pirate!
      Peter: First of all, he is way more of a pirate than you will ever be. Secondly, we don’t know who our best player is yet. We’ve only had one game. It could be any one of us at this point.
      White: Go ahead, make your jokes, Mr. Jokey… Joke-maker. But let me hit you with some knowledge. Quit now. Save yourself the embarrassment of losing with these losers in Las Vegas, La Fleur.
      Peter: Alliteration aside, I’ll take my chances in the tournament.
      White: Yeah, you *will* take your chances.
      Peter: I know. I just said that.
      White: I know you did.
      Peter: …I’m not sure where you’re going with this.
      White: I’m not sure where *you’re* going with this.
      Peter: That’s what I said.
      White: That’s what I’m saying to you.
      Peter: … All right.
      White: Touché.

    • whozat says:

      How is starting an inning with the bases empty bigger than a spot with the lead on the line and a guys on base?

  5. Beamish says:

    I look at last night’s pitching moves like Bill Walsh-style scripted plays. Girardi wanted CC to pitch as deep as he did regardless. He wanted CHoP to pitch though the 7th. He wanted Joba to pitch the 8th. He wanted the Lefty match-up for Marte. Nothing was really going to change those decisions.

    We must simply accept this is how Girardi will build his pitching staff. And it may cost a few games early in the season.

  6. H.W. Plainview says:

    Robertson is currently for high leverage situations. He led the league in K/9, and Girardi knows that. Girardi hoped for a K when he put Robertson in, stranding Youk, but it didn’t work out.

    Park started an inning. Who cares what number inning it was. We (most of us) know it doesn’t matter what inning it is. You put the reliever you trust most in the tougher situations. Robertson got that call last night.

    One game does not mean Park is the seventh1!11! inning guy or that Park > Robertson. It means he was called on to start the 7th inning, to see what he’s got come regular season time.

  7. Displaced Yanks Fan says:

    IT’S JUST ONE GAME!!!

  8. pete says:

    Each of the last two years the yankees have started the season with a worse overall bullpen situation than they have now, and ended up with one of the more effective bullpens in the league. Color me: not worried, even a little bit. One game.

  9. David says:

    OK, OK, I know that officially Game #1 is just as important as Game #2, #10, #86, etc. in terms of the final standings but I wish we could have held off on all this auditioning/experimenting last night. It’s opening frickin day on Sunday night broadcast nation wide. It felt like a playoff game (OK, so do most Yanks/Sox games…) and I wished Girardi had treated it as such, at least a little bit. Today is an off day so there was plenty of wriggle room with the bullpen. You have plenty of proven guys in there, no need to throw Park to the wolves and hope for the best. Do that on Tuesday once the ‘daily grind’ starts to set in and the whole country isn’t glued to the TV.

    • A.D. says:

      You have plenty of proven guys in there, no need to throw Park to the wolves and hope for the best.

      Park isn’t exactly “un-proven” given that he actually has the most years & innings career wise of anyone in the Yanks pen.

  10. theyankeewarrior says:

    What bothers me is that Robertson wasn’t given the opportunity to continue. Forget the “pecking order” for a second. I don’t mind if Park came in after him at all because DRob came in during a high-leverage situation. Just because it was a new inning doesn’t mean there needs to be a new pitcher. There is no way Chan Ho Park needed to come into the game there.

    One bullpen philosophy that I have always bought into is that you never change pitchers until you have to. The more pitchers you bring into a game, the more likely one of them will implode, no matter who they are or how good they’ve been.

    If David Robertson is pitching ok, and his arm isn’t falling off, and he has only thrown 6 pitches, then he should pitch until he fails, or hits a pitch limit. Maybe he gets 4 or 5 outs in 20 pitches and Park never needs to enter the game.

    I understand that there is a process of figuring out who can pitch in certain situations. But doesn’t DRob still need to prove that he can pitch? He can’t do that by throwing 6 pitches. Chan Ho Park can prove himself in any of the 1,500+ innings that are left before October comes.

    Unrelated side note: Why did CC throw Youk a fastball on 3-1? Why not bury a changeup and let the guy walk to set up a DP ball for Ortiz? Why allow their best hitter to hit a fat pitch when their potentially weakest link is on deck and is left handed! That was a huge FAIL by Posada/CC in that situation.

    • pete says:

      well I think you’re right that your team’s chances of winning goes down the more flawed pitchers you bring in, but Joe has shown a tendency during his time here to try to get all of his relievers into games frequently in the early goings so A) they get into the routine of it, and B) he can tell what kind of situations best suit their abilities.

    • One bullpen philosophy that I have always bought into is that you never change pitchers until you have to. The more pitchers you bring into a game, the more likely one of them will implode, no matter who they are or how good they’ve been.

      Is this philosophy one backed up by empirical research, though?

      Do teams lose games more frequently if they make more pitching changes (not counting changes from general suckitude/implosion)? I’m not sure if they do.

      This is an old baseball saw that I haven’t personally seen either verified or debunked. I’d love to have more information on it. The saw may be a worthless old wives tale (like many, many other old baseball saws are).

      • pete says:

        anecdotally, both Joe Girardi and Tony Larussa are famously trigger happy, and both have managed to achieve considerable success from their bullpens.

      • Beamish says:

        It is a tough thing to check empirically since you cannot look at the converse case, i.e. if he did change pitchers it would have been better or worse. You can never see both possible outcomes.

        You could check correlation though between # of pitchers vs wins – which I would swear has been done and shown an inverse relationship but I cannot find it. It passes the sniff test though: bad pitchers are more likely to be removed because they are failing – which means the losing team is changing pitchers more.

        However: Correlation =/= Causation

  11. pete says:

    What’s more, I wouldn’t call it an “audition” really. I think Joe puts a high priority early season on getting his relievers into fairly regular work schedules, and then attempts to continue that regularity throughout the season, though after a little while he gets a better idea of what situations each of his guys are best suited to, and deploys them thusly for optimal success.

  12. rob says:

    What is more troubling is the same deficencies from last year caught this team again: BAD DEFENSE BEHIND HP WITH POSADA, BAD DEFENSE IN LF and SHAKEY RELIEF PITCHING!!

    • Steve H says:

      What is more troubling is the same deficencies from last year caught this team again

      And yet they won 103 games and the World Series.

    • pete says:

      MAKING THE LETTERS BIGGER DOESN’T MAKE YOU ANY LESS WRONG

      seriously dude. Gardner >>>>>>>> Damon in LF. We don’t know yet just how good he’ll wind up there, but there’s a decent chance that he’s one of the best LF in the game. As for Posada, as you saw last night, while he’s not exactly an elite defender, he’s such an elite hitter for the position that it doesn’t really matter much. And as for the bullpen, the yankees finished up the season with one of the best pens in the game last year. Just wait, they’ll do it again this year.

      One. Game.

      or was this a joke?

    • bexarama says:

      Wallace Matthews you cannot hide behind that “rob” moniker

  13. A.D. says:

    Summoned out of the bullpen to face three guys who don’t exactly represent power threats

    In Fenway any right handed hitter can have “power” in the sense of being able to hit a HR.

  14. A.D. says:

    Basically the Yanks signed Park with the hopes he can pitch out of the pen like he did last year, and only one way to figure it out. Worse case he becomes LaTroy Hawkins and someone else is given a shot.

  15. ADam says:

    CHP is this years version of Latroy Hawkins in 08 and Jose Veras in 09..

  16. Hey, I think that Park should pitch in high leverage situation. You know why? His 2010 K/9 is the highest on the team

  17. B-Rando says:

    I think if CHoP had came in and slammed the door in the 7th all of these nay sayers would be singing a different tune and celebrating the yankees elite bullpen. Its been said a dozen times already, but its one game, SSS, etc etc. Lets just breathe.

    • Accent Shallow says:

      I agree that one game isn’t a cause to panic.

      I thought CHP was an awful signing and a waste of $1.5M, but one game doesn’t mean I’m right, fortunately. He’ll get more chances, as he should.

      And while I wish he wasn’t on the roster in the first place, he’s likely here until the end of June, at least. And who knows, maybe he’ll actually pitch well.

  18. mryankee says:

    What a disgraceful performance last night by the pitching staff from CC Through Joba including Chan Ho Park. If the thing with Joba’s velocity is due to an elbow injury two years ago that has not healed properly then someone in the FO should be accountable.

  19. W.W.J.M.D. says:

    I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Yea, you go into every game wanting to win. Yea, we should always want to destroy the Sox. Yea, Game 1 is as important a game as the other 161. But April is really the month where teams are still figure out their identity. Let the month play out, the pitchers will get better and their velocity will increase, Jorge will be in better sync with them, and the bats will be completely comfortable with live pitching. Don’t overreact after the first game.

  20. matthaggs says:

    He started an inning with a two run lead and two lightweight hitters (or as close as the AL East gets) due up. That’s about as easy as it’s gonna get in the varsity league.

    It was a trial by fire only because Park brought the matches with him. Don’t like Park but can’t really blame him for giving up a pop fly to left.

    It’s Marte that looked horrible. If Ortiz wasn’t a corpse he would have hit one of those meatballs ten miles.

  21. paK_ says:

    We all have to calm down because it’s just one game. A lot can go wrong, and a lot can go right.

    We got a whole season to play, don’t judge from the 1st game played.

    • Beamish says:

      BUT THEY LOST!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • We all have to calm down

      No. No, we don’t…

      Because most of us are already calm.

      It’s only a select few–many already well-known for their bridge-jumping proclivities–who are overly excited today.

      The rest of us are quite calm.

      (No offense meant, paK_, I just felt this needed saying. I am of course including you in the “most of us”.)

  22. Marco Islava says:

    Chan Ho Park?? He is a homerun waiting to happen

  23. Rose says:

    Despite his fantastic spring and rock solid relief work for the Phillies last year, no one really knows what to expect out of Park in the AL East.

    The NL is like the AAAA League EXCEPT for the Phillies. Coincidentally and fortunately for Park, he pitched FOR the Phillies thus never having to face them in 2009.

    He’s going to be 37 years old in June. These Asian pitchers (for the most part) break down before they’re like 33.

    I’m setting the DFA over/under for June. Which do you guys take?

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.