Sarah's Take: Chan Ho Park
The 2000 season saw the development of Chan Ho Park into a dominating starter in the National League. In spring training Park sometimes appeared lost on the mound and indecisive on what he wanted to throw. When Todd Hundley could not catch the second game of the regular season that Park started, Chad Kreuter caught and helped to keep Park focused. It became commonplace to see Kreuter catching Park. By season’s end Park rivaled Kevin Brown for the title of the Dodger ace.
Chan Ho Park, 27, has the talent and skills to be an ace of any major league team, but his mental approach to the game has held his development back. He is a thoughtful pitcher who concentrates on pitch selection instead of how he will deliver the ball. Before Johnson paired him with Chad Kreuter, who is a veteran catcher, Park sometimes would stop mid delivery to change his mind about what he wanted to throw. He liked to nibble at the strike zone though his mid-90 miles-per-hour fastball, large rainbow curve, hard slider, and developing changeup always have been dominating. When Todd Hundley caught him, Park also worried about Hundley’s inability to throw out base stealers. With Kreuter, who has a strong throwing arm, Park did not worry about his catcher’s throwing ability. Kreuter’s philosophy of keeping pitching as simple as possible has helped Park. Quickly Kreuter and Park developed communication and trust. After the all-star break Park pitched to Kreuter.
Before the all-star break Park struggled a little, but after the break he was the most consistent starter for the Dodgers. Before the break he had nine wins and six losses with a 4.17 ERA and limited the opposition to a .217 batting average. In June he struggled with everything and did not win a game for three weeks. This prevented him being the first Dodger pitcher to win twenty since 1990 when Ramon Martinez did. After the break Park won nine and lost four with a 2.23 ERA and limited the opposition to a .211 batting average. All year he allowed merely 21 home runs and three stolen bases. His last outing of the season was his first major league shutout.
Though Park probably will not be considered for the National League Cy Young award, he ranks in the top ten in many pitching categories. His eighteen wins were the fifth highest. His 3.27 ERA was the seventh lowest in the National League among pitchers who had at least one inning per scheduled game. He pitched 226 innings, the ninth most. He struck out the second most, 217, but his 124 walks were the second most in the National League.
Park did not do all of his exploits on the mound. Offensively he often contributed to his own effort with a .214 batting average, two home runs, and six RBI. Defensively he is good because he has quick reflexes. In 34 games he made only three errors.
In 2000 Chan Ho Park played a vital role in the Dodgers’ success. When he started, the Dodgers knew they had a good chance of winning. As Park enters his last season before he can declare free agency, he has expressed a desire to sign a long term contract with the Dodgers. This would benefit both Park and the Dodgers.