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Monday, August 01, 2005

A Worse Chan Ho In A Good Park?

Jon does a gut-check about his initial impression (one I shared) that recent Padres acquisition Chan Ho Park would do better in pitcher-friendly Petco. (Actually, pitcher-loving is more accurate, with tongue and everything.) It turns out that Park has done badly on the road, and hasn't been hurt much by home runs this year; so expectations that he'll give up fewer that way are unrealistic. But maybe that's not the problem. Maybe it was his defense. Let's take a look at the defense he got in Texas, versus what's available in San Diego:

Pos.     Player          Rate2    Player       Rate2
LF    Kevin Mench          98  Ryan Klesko       100
CF    Gary Matthews, Jr.  103  Dave Roberts       90
CF    Laynce Nix          101  Xavier Nady        82
RF    Richard Hidalgo     106  Brian Giles       102

Which is to say, the Padres have adequate defense at the corners, but bad-to-awful CF defense. (Bear in mind the centerfielders on both teams are split about 3:2 with Roberts and Matthews taking most of the time for each team.) He's going from a team with about league average outfield defense to one that's profoundly bad, particularly in Petco's broad centerfield.

But there's another problem with this analysis. Chan Ho Park is no longer a flyball pitcher. In fact, looking at his history, Park's reputation as a flyball pitcher seems to be gravely overdone. Except for his injury-plagued 2004, he hasn't once posted a G/F ratio less than unity. So let's look at the differences in the infield defense behind him going from Arlington to Petco:

Pos.     Player          Rate2    Player       Rate2
1B  Mark Teixeira         105  Mark Sweeney*     91
1B                             Xavier Nady*      91
2B  Alfonso Soriano        78  Mark Loretta**    97
SS  Michael Young          90  Khalil Greene     87
3B  Hank Blalock          102  Sean Burroughs   110
3B                             Joe Randa        103†

* Sweeney hasn't played much 1B this year, so this is based on a small sample size, 30 games. I still use it because it's representative of his play at the position previously in San Diego, and in fact slightly better than his 2002 numbers. I include Xavier Nady here because he started at the position on Sunday, which I assume portends he'll be given the position barring other changes.
** Loretta I assume will man the second base position, but with Phil Nevin disappearing, the whole infield is in flux.
Thanks to Ducksnorts' Geoff Young for reminding me that Sean Burroughs had been optioned to AAA Portland last month; 3B will be Joe Randa. I quote Randa's 2004 3B fielding stats here because he hasn't had enough in 2005 to be considered with any reliability.

The point here is that up the middle, the Pads actually have (incrementally) better defenders than Park got in Texas, where his defense just killed him. If he can keep the ball on the ground -- and there's every indication that he can -- this has a chance to be a reasonable move for the Padres.

Um, it's Kevin "Mench" and "Michael" Young.
Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. I keep getting names wrong, especially first ones. Thanks for the catch.
I can understand moving Nevin, and that the Pads needed another starter, but jeez, not Park.

Those damn bastards on 1090 am won't shut up about it.
Burroughs is at Triple-A. Joe Randa will be getting the bulk of PT at 3B.

It will be interesting to see if Nevin can remember how to hit a big-league fastball in Texas.

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