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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chan Ho Park is the 5th starter; Happ to bullpen?

Chan Ho Park, after a very impressive spring training, has been named the Phillies 5th starter over J.A. Happ. Personally, I would have placed Park in the bullpen and given Happ the starter's role, but it seems as if the Phillies were reluctant to deprive the job from Park after such a quality performance this Spring (2 BBs to 25 Ks).

Happ has considerably more upside than Park. Happ has 545 strikeouts in only 528 career minor league innings, and he is coming off a 2008 campaign where he posted a 1.32 major-league WHIP and a 1.22 WHIP in AAA-ball.

Park, on the other hand, managed a pedestrian 1.395 WHIP out of the bullpen in 2008 for the Dodgers, and he has not managed a season-WHIP under 1.39 since 2001.

Here are Park's ERA/WHIP for the past 4 years where he has started at least 16 games:

2002: 5.75/1.593
2004: 5.46/1.443
2005: 5.74/1.674
2006: 4.81/1.390

Those numbers are in Eaton-territory. As a Phillies fan, I am very skeptical that a man who has started only 6 games in 2 years is the correct choice for the 5th starter's spot - especially when he has not had a truly successful year as a starter in 8 years.

However, there may have been an underlying line of thinking behind this choice. The Phillies are desperate for lefty-relievers because of the J.C. Romero suspension. Although they signed Jack Taschner, he does not have the same potential as Happ. Happ has a very low .280 OBP-against vs. left-handed batters (albeit a small sample-size), while Taschner's is a poor .349.

Perhaps Happ is simply needed in the bullpen more than he was in the rotation. There are two spots open in the bullpen, and he will be competing with righties Gary Majewski, Robert Mosebach, and lefty Taschner for one of those two spots. Hopefully Happ makes the team, because he has better numbers than these three guys, and he certainly has more potential than all of them, including Park.

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