Bullpen Free Agent Target: Chan Ho Park

Chan Ho Park's career is a long and convoluted one, one that's had as many ups and downs as any thrill ride.

After enjoying success with the Dodgers to the tune of a 3.77 ERA in his first six seasons in major league baseball, Park signed a five year, $65 million dollar contract in 2001, becoming one of the richest pitchers in baseball. Park also quickly became one of the biggest "albatrosses" in baseball: over the course of this five year contract, Park was worth just 4.3 wins and compiled an ERA of 5.81 to go with a laughable K/9 of 6.6 and BB/9 of 4.6. Park was a truly horrible pitcher during this time.

Park was generally mediocre until he experienced a renaissance upon moving to the bullpen. Here are Park's stats out of the pen in 2009.

2009: 50 IP, 9.36 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 41.3 GB%, 3.10 xFIP

As a result of these amazing numbers, supposedly our own front office was interested in signing Park last off-season. Park ended up signing with the Yankees for $1.2 million, and then went on to have a horrible start to the season. I think we should sign him anyways.

There's no denying that Chan Ho Park had an ugly start to the 2010 season. In 35.1 IP with the Yankees, he put together a 5.60 ERA and 5.12 FIP. That being said, his peripherals were not horrible, and while his K rate wasn't as high as it was the previous year, he still put up a 4.32 xFIP. The main culprit for Park's issues appeared to be an unsustainably high HR/FB of 15.2%, a BABIP of .318, and a LOB% of 64.8.

Additionally, Park turned it around after being claimed by Pittsburgh in early August. Park's xFIP was a full .56 runs lower at 3.76, thanks to a lower BB/9 and a sky-high 54.1 GB%. While certainly part of this is a result of the league difference, Park's pitch-usage changed drastically. Park's slider, which was excellent even in his brutal first half according to Fangraphs' run values, spiked in usage from 22.3% to 27.4% and his swinging strike percentage spiked from 9.4% to 12.4% overall.

The slider, which had a 20.1 swinging strikes percentage in the first half, didn't experience any deterioration in swinging strike inducement despite the increased usage. In fact, Park got swinging strikes 26.7% of the time he threw the slider after the trade.

While we are dealing with extremely small sample sizes, and while it's possible that any of these fluctuations in talent that Park undergoes are simply random variation, it's possible that Park's true talent level is closer to the 3.76 xFIP that he displayed in the second half than the 4.32 in the first. If that's the case, then over the course of 70 IP, he would be worth roughly .8 wins, or three million dollars in surplus value.

While .8 wins might not be the most exciting, Park is just one year removed from an outstanding run of dominance in Philadelphia's bullpen, and given that he probably won't command much (if anything) on the free agent market, I see no reason why the Rays shouldn't offer him at least a 1 year/$1M contract; it certainly can't hurt, and Park has the potential to be a solid reliever for cheap. If nothing else, he can be our resident Brawl-expert.

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