This afternoon, I talked about the reasons why Derek Jeter laying down a bunt in the seventh inning was a good idea (until there were two strikes, anyway). One of the common responses to the support of the bunt in that situation is that Jeter should have been swinging away because, to paraphrase the argument, Chan Ho Park was pitching and Chan Ho Park stinks.
I’m sorry, but this is one of those cases where I just have to scratch my head and wonder how reputations can gain such traction when they are so remarkably wrong. The idea that Park is a bad pitcher, especially out of the bullpen, is downright crazy.
Over the last two years, Park has thrown 179 innings with a FIP of 3.90, good for a value of +1.8 wins. He’s done it by racking up 152 strikeouts while also posting an above average groundball rate, which is a classic recipe for success. Just based on that performance, we’d have to conclude that he’s something like a league average pitcher.
However, those numbers don’t reflect the actual level of Park’s effectiveness as a reliever. They also include his failures in the rotation, where he was unable to sustain his velocity and got pounded as a result. When moved back to the bullpen, his stuff improved by leaps and bounds, as you can see in his velocity chart below.
Park’s FIP as a relief pitcher this year? 2.10.
Now, a good chunk of that absurdly low mark is a 0.0% HR/FB rate that isn’t his actual talent level, but even when you adjust for that, he was still a lights out reliever this year, running a 3.25 K/BB rate and holding opposing hitters to a .231/.296/.280 line.
Additionally, Park is a right-handed pitcher with a significant platoon differential established over his entire career. RHBs have hit him at a .227/.311/.355 mark over his career, compared to .271/.368/.447 for LHBs. Jeter, being a right-handed hitter, was up against a right-handed relief pitcher who performs significantly better against same handed batters.
The idea that Jeter should have been swinging away because Chan Ho park was on the mound and a big rally was likely is the opposite of the truth. In reality, he’s a very good relief pitcher with the platoon advantage, and the match-up wasn’t likely to end well for Jeter.
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