Chan Ho Park, 36, has been an above-average pitcher less than half of his career. His best years came at pitcher-friendly Chavez Ravine, where he complied a 2.96 ERA. It's 5.16 everywhere else.
When the Park signing was first announced, I instantly knew he would become the player I would follow most in spring training. Despite the poor seasons and against my better baseball judgement, Chan Ho Park is still very intriguing, and I'm obviously not the only one who thinks that, as evidenced by his new $2.5 million deal that could double with performance bonuses. No matter how bad he's been, he always gets signed. He has a legion of believers. There's something in the name, and there's something about the aggressive way in which the deal went down; the Phillies snatched him up quickly.
I agree with Baseball Prospectus when they say that if he keeps the ball down, as he did in short bursts out of the 'pen last season (52.6 GB%), the next act of his career could be interesting. That flies in the face of conventional Beerleaguer wisdom, which says that Park will lose the battle over the fifth starter spot and slot into the bullpen. But what if? We have no reason to doubt the Phillies' motives when they said Park would receive a fair shake in spring training. If the veteran hurler can harness everything he did right with L.A., while blocking out the bad years in the American League, Park could become this season's sleeper.
There's also this matter of pitching away from Dodgers Stadium and proving himself at Citizens Bank Park, but more and more, generic concerns about the effects of the Bank have been unfounded. Brett Myers posted a 3.01 ERA there last season, and Jamie Moyer, who had been an extreme flyball pitcher before coming to Philadelphia, has pitched some of his best seasons here. Combine Park's experience, talent and a positive environment to foster performance, the pieces are in place for a Cinderella Story of sorts.