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April 20, 2009

Prospectus Today

The End of the World

by Joe Sheehan

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There's no minimizing it: Chien-Ming Wang has been absolutely crushed in his first three starts this season, a stretch that includes Saturday's four-out, eight-run throttling that kicked off the Yankees' 22-4 loss at the hands of the Indians.

Wang, who when he's at his best is going to give up a lot of contact, is simply seeing all of his pitches knocked around the yard. He's faced 45 batters this year and struck out just two of them, the same number that have hit homers off of him. He's walked six. Of the 37 batters to make contact, 23 have hits. Of those 37, just 13 have hit ground balls, which is pretty much the disaster scenario for Wang.

Some time back, in speculating as to why a pitcher with Wang's velocity would strike out so few batters, I concluded that he works in such a small area of the strike zone that he produces contact by design. However, he's missing that area, and when you work in the strike zone, missing the good part by just a little bit-which is what we're seeing from Wang-is how you end up allowing fly balls to more than half the batters you face, fly balls that become extra-base hits. Wang has given up nine doubles and two homers, which would have been a month's work for him in his good seasons.

Yankee fans have seen this before, so it's instructive, as the airwaves are filled with an insistence that Wang be sent to the bullpen, the minors, or back to Taiwan, to think about how the last three-start stretch similar to this-with similar reaction-turned out. In August 2007, Mike Mussina had been pitching well for two months, with a 3.54 ERA and a 54/13 K/BB in his previous 12 starts. He had a streak of four straight wins and three straight quality starts, including 19 2/3 innings without a walk, when he took the mound against the Tigers on the night of August 16. It didn't go well; Mussina allowed nine hits and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings. He would be pounded by the Angels five days later (seven hits in 1 2/3 IP) and the Tigers again on the 27th (nine hits in three innings), losing his spot in the rotation at that point.

In the three starts, Mussina faced 59 batters and struck out just three of them. Nine hit doubles, and one homered. A different pitcher than Wang by type, Mussina's GB/FB ratio wasn't quite as jarring, but the results-25 of the 53 batters to make contact hit safely-were similar. For funsies:


          IP   H   R  BB  SO  HR   AVG   OBP    SLG
Wang     6.0  23  23   6   2   2  .622  .667  1.027
Mussina  9.7  25  20   5   3   1  .472  .508   .698

Wang's performance is "worse," but when the league is doing this to you, the difference between a .472 BA against and a .622 one is pretty insignificant. It's a difference of degree, not kind; Mussina lost his everything for three starts and got blasted all over the yard, generating calls for his removal from the rotation, the roster, the species. That's where Wang is today.

Here's where Mussina went after that. He came out of the bullpen on September 3 and threw 3 2/3 innings of mop-up relief, allowing seven hits and two runs. Back in the rotation on September 12, Mussina shut out the Blue Jays for 5 2/3 innings. Fluke? He came back six days later and shut out the Orioles for seven innings. In five appearances after August 27, Mussina posted a 3.49 ERA and a 15/6 K/BB, or roughly the same thing he'd been doing in the 12 starts prior to his lull. He made one post-season appearance, throwing 4 2/3 innings of middling relief in the game in which the Yankees were eliminated. In 2008, Mussina had a strong season, his last before retiring.

If you looked at Mussina on August 15, you wouldn't have seen the next three starts coming. If you'd looked at him on September 1, you wouldn't have seen a month of a 3.49 ERA coming. If you'd written him off at that point, you would have lost out on some good work.

Of course, 2007 is a long time ago. Here's a more recent example of a good pitcher who looked like he was in the tall grass:


          IP    H   R  BB  SO  HR   AVG   OBP   SLG
Pitcher  12.2  26  22  11   7   3  .433  .514  .717

That's Pitcher's second through fourth starts last season, a year ago this week, basically. CC Sabathia survived, don't you think?

The argument here isn't for doing nothing. The argument is for not panicking. There's not much reason to think that Wang isn't just a mechanical adjustment away, literally inches, from regaining his form as a mid-rotation starter. That's what fixed Sabathia: Some film work, some time with Carl Willis, some throwing off of the bullpen mound. Wang's last three starts are hideous, but you can look at recent Yankee history and see the same, you can look at a guy in the same rotation with Wang and see the same. If Mike Mussina and CC Sabathia can bounce back without demotions and releases and all of the other nonsense being suggested, Wang can as well.

Trust the pitcher.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

46 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Darsox64

While I don't think there's reason to panic, there's certainly reason to be very concerned. Groundball rates stabilize as quickly as anything, so swinging from one end of the spectrum in that area to another, even in the course of only three starts, means SOMETHING. There is evidence of Wang's problems being of a different "kind", rather than degree than the examples because there's a serious question as to whether there has been a genuine change in what makes him a good pitcher.

Apr 20, 2009 11:19 AM
rating: 1
 
Rob_in_CT

Watching him pitch this season transports me right back into the horrorshow that was the 2007 ALDS, when Cleveland treated him like a pinata. The location & movement of his pitches is the same (lateral movement, instead of vertical, fat fastballs up in the zone, etc). So yeah, he's lost it like this before.

When he's good he's very very good and when he's bad his awful. And he's just plain killing the bullpen right now.

Apr 20, 2009 11:28 AM
rating: 3
 
keeperleaguegm

Arrian has it exactly right. I'm not panicked by Wang's performance, but it reminds me exactly of the 2007 ALDS when his stuff was flat and imminently hittable. He rebounded from those starts in 2008 (before getting hurt) and I wonder if it's mental as opposed to physical. Damon's comments about "killing the bullpen" can't help that...let him throw a simulated game and start him back on the road. I think moving him to the bullpen will exacerbate the situation and I hope that Girardi, Cashman Eiland and Co. will make the right decision.

Apr 20, 2009 15:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

It probably is mental. They say he's fine in warmups, which screams "in his head!" to me. Which is the scariest part for me.

Apr 21, 2009 05:43 AM
rating: 0
 
sroyel

There's also the matter that with Wang, it's always seemed to be just a question of time before his inability to miss bats caught up with him.

Apr 20, 2009 11:29 AM
rating: 0
 
SirVLCIV

If you assume his success to date is due to pure random probability, and he's been the biggest fluke in baseball for 3+ years, I can see that.

I think we have enough information, however, to show that his success wasn't flukish.

His problem is mechanical, and possibly physical (thus causing the mechanical issues).

Apr 20, 2009 11:41 AM
rating: 3
 
qwik3457bb

Well, except for the fact that his ability to miss bats was actually IMPROVING, little by little, year by year, up until he got hurt last season.

Apr 20, 2009 17:17 PM
rating: 1
 
wilbrahambasebal

As a Red Sox fan I hope Wang stays like this

Apr 20, 2009 11:36 AM
rating: -3
 
JoshC77

Good stuff Joe.

This is just another example of how small sample sizes are magnified at the beginning of the season. Every player goes through a rough patch or two over the course of the season. When it’s at the beginning, you get those horrid-looking numbers. I agree with you, looking at Wang’s track record, the probability is quite high that he will rebound back to his usual form.

Although not nearly as egregious, I still remember the start Roy Halladay had to begin the 2003 season. At the end of April, he was 0-2 with a 4.89 ERA over 38.2 innings. People (at least in the fantasy world) were panicking whether he was OK or not. How many people realized that he was 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA in 40 innings that same year in the month of August? Well, 22 wins and a Cy Young later, he proved that even the best players have the bad stretches. That’s why we play 162.

Apr 20, 2009 11:37 AM
rating: 2
 
SirVLCIV

Everyone who wants to know 'What's Wrong with Wang' should watch this from the MLB Network: http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=4208179&c_id=mlb

It's purely mechanical. There's no reason to believe he won't get fixed (and it will be of the 'everything just clicks' variety of fixes not a gradual process).

The two theories outstanding are 1) His core muscles aren't in game shape and 2) he's subconsciously afraid of re-damaging his foot.

Apr 20, 2009 11:37 AM
rating: 2
 
Farber

Has anyone (besides me) wondered if Wang is injured? I mean, no healthy big leaguer can be this bad, right?

Apr 20, 2009 11:39 AM
rating: 2
 
wonkothesane1

Ask and ye shall receive.

Apr 20, 2009 14:02 PM
rating: 0
 
bflaff

I'm not sure that it is any more, or less, comforting for Wang and the Yankees that other pitchers have been there before, especially because Wang is not those pitchers. What worked for Moose or Sabathia might be totally wrong for Wang. As for the remedies, Brett Myers got himself sorted by spending two weeks in the minors last year, and Jeff Francoeur didn't. That alone suggests that there really isn't some universal remedy for these kinds of issues.

In other words, whatever the Yankees want to do with Wang needs to be tailored to Wang, not on what worked or didn't work for some other player. So if they decide he needs to go to the pen, or to the minors, or to a psychic, then so be it, and it wouldn't necessarily be a panic move.

Joe wants to trust the pitcher, but it's worth asking if we can trust the Yankees as well. If possible, it would be useful to see if the recent vintage Yankees were any good at 'fixing' a pitcher gone terribly bad. Mussina is one data point, but are there others?

Apr 20, 2009 11:56 AM
rating: 2
 
James Martin Cole
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Jeff Francoeur isn't any good, though. It's not like he had anything to return to, he just kinda sucks.

Apr 20, 2009 12:10 PM
rating: -4
 
saucyjack88

thwalq3r, didn't you ever watch John "Way Back" Wasdin pitch?

Apr 20, 2009 12:07 PM
rating: 1
 
eighteen

It's hard to imagine two pitchers as vastly different as Wang and the 2008 version of C.C. Sabathia. Wang may indeed be just a mechanical tweak away from adequacy, but to suggest he is because that's what worked for C.C. Sabathia is simply mind-boggling. Same for the comparison to Mussina, though to a lesser degree.

Shouldn't we evaluate Wang in terms of pitchers he's actually like - say, PECOTA comparables - instead of well-known, very good, pitchers who've been cherry-picked solely because they came back from bad stretches, and not because they have the slightest resemblance to Wang?

Apr 20, 2009 12:07 PM
rating: 11
 
James Martin Cole

The problem w/ Wang is that he doesn't have any margin for error at all. If you don't strike people out you have to get tons and tons of groundballs and walk very few people. If you start giving up flyballs or walks, you're going to get into a lot of trouble.

Wang reminds me a little bit of Carlos Silva when Silva was young. Silva was never as good at not giving up dingers, but he was better than Wang at not walking guys. While I think that Wang's true talent level is a lot better than an ERA around 30.00, I don't think you can expect him to be your number 2 starter for that much longer. Luckily for the Yankees, they don't really need him to be.

I think Wang's on the decline phase of his career. That's not to say he won't be good for a few more years, but it's tough to think of starters who remained as good as he's been for very long when they K as few batters as he does.

Apr 20, 2009 12:19 PM
rating: 0
 
destro55

Wangs margin for error is not dictate by his K rates. In fact, his ability to get batters to put the ball in play early in the count was considered a *good* thing, as it lead to his signature quick innings.

Wangs margin for error is dictated by how hard batters are beating the ball into the ground. The easier the ground balls, the easier defensive plays, the more double plays, etc.

Unless he totally changes his approach to pitching, he will never have a good K rate, but thats not really all that relevant.

Apr 20, 2009 13:43 PM
rating: 1
 
James Martin Cole

K rate is very relevant, simply because most good pitchers with low K rates become not-good pitchers a whole lot faster than pitchers who strike guys out.

There's no doubt that Wang's performance so far have been very, very good. However, his low K rate suggests that he may not be able to keep that up over the next few years. If his ability to get groundballs or not walk guys slips at all, the effects are going to be magnified because he can't strike people out.

Maybe he ends up as Bob Forsch, and that's not so bad, but he's not exactly a dependable number 2. But I don't know that you're going to find many guys who strike out 4 guys per 9 innings who had a long career as number 2/3 guys in modern MLB history.

Apr 20, 2009 15:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Drungo

Isn't this analysis a little bit like the Jamie Moyer supposition (every pitcher with an 84 mph fastball will eventually become a Cy Young candidate)?

If you look at the whole set of players who've allowed 20 runs in three starts I'd bet most of them ended up as something besides major league pitchers pretty quickly.

Apr 20, 2009 12:25 PM
rating: 0
 
Lindemann
(852)

One of the reasons I subscribe to the Prospectus is to get content on teams other than those ESPN deems worthy of coverage. Can BP's daily columnist please cast his gaze elsewhere for a few days?

Apr 20, 2009 12:33 PM
rating: 6
 
sunpar

It seem fairly obvious that his velocity being down (averaged 91.0 MPH on his FB against Cleveland, compared to 93.4 MPH at this same point last year) and his sinker not sinking, have lead to way more fly balls and his usual "pitching to contact" style not cutting it anymore.

Apr 20, 2009 12:44 PM
rating: 0
 
swrights

Didn't you miss a pretty big possibility here - that injury (or something else) has decreased velocity on his sinker, which is a pretty big deal for a pitching looking for contact?

On Saturday, Wang through 46 fastballs according to pitch f/x at an average velocity of under 91 MPH with a max of 92 MPH. On August 25, 2007, when Wang wnet 8 strong against Detroit in the middle of one of his two good seasons, his average fastball was about 93 with a max of 95.

Even during his first start of the season last year, he was throwing about 1 MPH harder with far more vertical and horizontal break on his fastballs. Couldn't it just be that his sinker sucks, he may be injured, and he's throwing meatballs?

Apr 20, 2009 12:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

It's possible, but the team and the pitcher himself have made repeated statements that he's totally healthy.

They could be wrong. They might be lying (though I can't imagine why at this point). But I don't think so.

His mechanics are a mess, and I think it's mental. Possibly b/c he's subconciously favoring the foot he hurt last year. Or maybe something else, since we've seen this with him before that injury.

Apr 20, 2009 13:09 PM
rating: 0
 
hanqingwang

I don't have any data. But I would imagine the difference between .472 BA against and a .622 one is quite significant. Maybe more than one standard deviation away.

Apr 20, 2009 13:09 PM
rating: -1
 
sunpar

Over 3 games and not that many Batters Faced, it's not too significant-- about 5 hits separate Wang from Mussina

Apr 20, 2009 13:28 PM
rating: 0
 
James Martin Cole

Dude, Wang recorded 6 outs, whereas Mussina recorded 11 outs. If Wang pitched like he has been for another 5 outs, he'd give up 19 more hits, or 17 more than Mussina. Mussina turned every batter he faced into Barry Bonds in his prime, Wang turned ever batter he faced into Barry Bonds in a video game.

Apr 20, 2009 15:16 PM
rating: 3
 
jjgreen33
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Joe wrote a column about the Yankees? Shocking!

Apr 20, 2009 13:35 PM
rating: -5
 
swrights

I think this problem is completely different from his problem in the 2007 playoffs. Then, it seems likely that he was overthrowing, since his average fastball was 94 and he topped out at 96 but he cut his movement about in half. It's not generally a good idea for a sinkerballer to overthrow his movement and turn himself into a straightballer like Kyle Farnsworth.

This season, he's lost movement AND speed, which it a huge red flag. I never trust the pitcher or the management if they say he's not injured (every pitcher says he's not injured right up until the moment he goes to Alabama to see James Andrews). But either way, if he's become a soft straight tosser (due to injury or something else), that's not good for the Yankees.

Apr 20, 2009 13:36 PM
rating: 1
 
gjhardy

As I understand it, neither Mussina nor Sabathia were coming off a major injury at the time of their trouble, which moots the whole point of this column. Whether Wang's problems are psychological or physical, it seems like Joe is comparing apples and oranges in this case. This is more than a BABIP issue.

Apr 20, 2009 13:50 PM
rating: 0
 
dbertelli

I don't know. I think there's another reason for Wang's struggles: the curse of the Giambino will probably hover over the new stadium (as it did the old) for at least another 5 decades...

Apr 20, 2009 14:15 PM
rating: -2
 
JayhawkBill

"...the difference between a .472 BA against and a .622 one is pretty insignificant..."

No, it's not. Batting average differences of 150 points define the difference between roughly league-worst and roughly league-best. It's the difference between the worst shortstop and the best first baseman. It's the difference between the Cy Young starter and the defining replacement-level long relief pitcher.

There are other differences between Wang and Mussina and Sabathia, most notably that the latter two look to be roughly HOF-caliber pitchers and that Wang, away from his old ballpark, has looked pretty bad. His career "Away" ERA is 4.61 as I type. Few great pitchers, if any, posted an ERA over 4.00 on the road.

I'd have faith that Wang will bring his batting average allowed to within roughly 150 points of what Mussina and Sabathia allowed over their respective careers, given that he's currently 150 points worse than they were at their worst. Were I a Yankees fan--or a Yankees GM--that wouldn't comfort me right now.

Apr 20, 2009 18:11 PM
rating: -1
 
Patrick

Over 45 (Wang) or 59 (Mussina) batters faced, the difference is actually not that significant. The whole point of this column is to stop freaking out over data with such a small sample size. Wang's BA against will never be that close to Mussina, but he has a long track record of being an above-average major league pitcher.

Apr 21, 2009 07:44 AM
rating: 1
 
JayhawkBill

I understand the small sample size issue, but let's use binomial theorem to check the hypothetical batting average allowed (BAA) of which we're 99% sure the pitcher in question was worse during the period in question. Mussina was a .327 BAA or worse pitcher during his three games. That's bad, but not inappropriate for an MLB guy with some problem for a small set of games. Wang was a .445 BAA pitcher or worse in his three game sample. That's horrific. We see starting pitchers having single games that bad, but few, if any, have three consecutive season-starting games that bad.

It's hard to imagine how an MLB pitcher could be so bad. At the core of the problem is that Wang is allowing a third of his opposing batters to hit line drives. That's roughly double the MLB average in most years. The other factor is that his BABIP allowed on ground balls is .417, while his career norm is .206. That's too big to be luck: the ground balls are being hit harder by batters. The strongest and fastest sluggers in the game might approach such a BABIP on ground balls; Wang is making every opposing hitter a superstar.

I agree that this won't last. Where I disagree is with the expectation going forward. Wang just lost his old Yankee Stadium, and away from there he looked pretty mediocre. Given that his current issue is so much worse than that faced by Mussina (or Sabathia), and given his lack of established excellence in neutral ballparks in previous seasons, I see little reason to expect a return to the form that Wang showed in home games earlier in his career. Without those home games, he's not anywhere near the caliber of Mussina or Sabathia.

Apr 21, 2009 10:06 AM
rating: -1
 
Patrick

No, Wang is not even close to Mussina or Sabathia. He's been a slightly above league-average pitcher for his career, though, and while it would be rare for a pitcher of his quality to pitch this badly over this many batters faced, it's still possible. It's been a while since I took a formal stats class, but doesn't your confidence level go up as you get more data? Of course something is wrong right now, but three really brutal starts doesn't tell us what it is and they don't say you should change your expectations about Wang.

I mean, J.J. Hardy currently has an OPS of .403 in 46 plate appearances, which is pretty terrible for a guy who is at .765 over the course of his 1879-plate-appearance career. Nobody's getting all worked up about that, but when a guy who has faced 2656 batters in his career and allowed a BAA of .271 has six meltdown innings, we assume the worst. Maybe he throws a 4-hit shutout next time. The point is, anything can happen in a small number of plate appearances.

Apr 21, 2009 19:53 PM
rating: 1
 
JayhawkBill

You're right that it's easier to get a higher confidence with a larger sample size. It's also easier with more extreme performance, and what I'm trying to demonstrate is how bad Wang already is at the 99% confidence level.

You cite J.J. Hardy. I show Hardy as 6-50, a .125 BA. I'm 99% positive that his true talent level with respect to BA is .267 or less. J.J. Hardy is a .266 lifetime hitter: I'm not convinced anything is wrong.

I posted above that binomial theorem suggests that Wang's true current talent level is a .445 BAA or worse. See the difference? A BA of .267 is well within MLB norms, and the sample size is too small to expect that the talent level is less than that, even if the current stat line is much lower. Wang's actual BAA is .622, suggesting that we should be 99% confident that the current talent level would be a BAA of .445 or worse. While a BA of .267 is within MLB norms, a BAA of .445 certainly isn't. That's why I think that we might pay attention to this particular small sample.

Patrick, there are certainly shortcomings using binomial theorem as a modeling tool here, and there's a 1% chance that 99% confidence would be misleading, too. I understand your skepticism. Still, I'd urge you to consider that this particular small sample appears to be more significant, by far, than most.

Apr 22, 2009 10:13 AM
rating: 0
 
JayhawkBill

Correction: J.J. Hardy is hitting .125, but I transcribed 50 PA instead of 48 AB.

That changes the 99% confidence level to .277 if I've run the numbers right. Pardon the typo, especially as it influenced the computation.

Apr 22, 2009 10:20 AM
rating: 0
 
Patrick

JayhawkBill, you're right that in extreme cases, a small sample size is not necessarily a detriment to using the binomial theorem. I think we all (including the Yankees) agree that something is wrong, which is why Wang is currently at extended spring training. In the absence of more information, however, 45 data points are not quite enough to convince me it's more than a statistical anomaly, no matter how bad those PA's turned out for Wang. He just has too long of a track record - even if you look only at his road numbers - for me to dismiss based on three starts.

Apr 22, 2009 15:34 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Wang was hurt for a good chunk last year and for a pitching style that requires such finesse, it probably takes some time to get back into a rhythm.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned (and which I don't know the answer to), is if changes in the Yankees defense has been a factor. In effect right now, they have 2/3rds of a new outfield (center and right) and 1/2 of a new infield (first base and third base). It might be too early to tell, but that might be a factor... and if so, perhaps the problems won't entirely go away.

Apr 20, 2009 18:53 PM
rating: 0
 
Rob_in_CT

I don't think it's the defense. The D, if anything, is improved. He's not giving up dribblers and flares that are falling/getting through. He's giving up screaming line drives.

Apr 21, 2009 05:46 AM
rating: 0
 
sroyel

One thing that's kinda cool about this whole discussion is that it's very rare for one player to legitimately deserve the blame for a team's performance over a period of games. In this case, as in the playoffs, Wang single-handedley killed the team over a period of games. I think this partly explains Damon's comments. It's just so stunning

Apr 21, 2009 03:11 AM
rating: 0
 
emanski

On a web site where the mantra is "Sample size," it it stunning to see so much made of so little. But the Yankees do little better than inspire overreaction, from fans and haters, whether positive or negative. Whoever's right about what is up with Wang after 3 starts will in all likelihood just be the luckiest guesser. And that's all I took away from this column.

If it's bad speculation to assume the Marlins will finish 138-24 based on 11 games, surely it's worse to project Wang based on 3.

Apr 21, 2009 08:13 AM
rating: 1
 
JayhawkBill

Yes, but extreme cases are significant without a large sample. If an MLB pitcher were to throw three consecutive perfect games, none of us would hesitate to disregard sample size and recognize that we were watching history. We might not expect 30 more perfect games, but we'd know that any pitcher who could prevent 81 consecutive batters from reaching base was extraordinary.

Wang's work thus far is so far from MLB norms that it is extraordinary in its own way. Few pitchers have ever been this bad. A .622 BAA is almost what one would expect were every batter to hit a line drive. Consider an MLB batter who hit 42 line drives in 45 PA. We wouldn't be quibbling sample size, we'd be heralding the arrival of something special. That's how bad Wang's pitching is--it's something especially bad.

Let's look at it differently. Wang has a -18.5 VORP in just 6.0 IP. Let's look at previous seasons for pitchers with a VORP below -18.5 for the year, and let's record, for each season, the one who had the fewest IP with a VORP that low or lower:

2008 Luis Mendoza 63.3 IP
2007 Scott Elarton 37.0 IP
2006 Hayden Penn 19.7 IP
2005 Dewon Brazelton 71.0 IP

It usually takes three times (or more) as many IP as Wang has accumulated to be as bad as he's been.

We're too accustomed to discounting small sample sizes if we're serious about baseball stats, and we tend to do it without checking the significance. Doing that, we'll miss every turning point. I'd suggest that the evidence against Wang is, after just three games, enough to indicate that something is very wrong--this is not reasonably a small sample size issue.

Apr 21, 2009 11:54 AM
rating: -1
 
emanski

Not to be argumentative, but I don't get the batter comp. In 2008, Cameron Maybin looked like he was batting against Chien-Ming Wang every AB, but in 2007 and 2009 he's hit like Cameron Diaz. He could have hit .622 for those middle ABs and he'd still be a below-average hitter for his short career. After his first 36 PA last year Jay Bruce was hitting .552. These are just the first two guys I thought of.

Wang had an OK spring training, so aside from his missing half of last year, the total meltdown wasn't predictable. He has been notably terrible for a short stretch; you don't have to be a genius to predict that he is injured. Sure, maybe we have an Ankiel-style meltdown. And maybe we don't. There's little data about this sort of performance because no one knows what comes next outing, because no one who pitches this bad for long is allowed to have a next outing. The people who guessed that Rick Ankiel was done after a few wild pitches were right. With other pitchers, they'd have been wrong.

What we mostly have here is the case of a Yankee pitcher who's high ERA and 4.83 WHIP(!) have mortally wounded a lot of fantasy rosters. Cue the hullaballoo.

Apr 21, 2009 19:39 PM
rating: 0
 
T. Kiefer

I certainly hope this isn't the case, because it has to be devastating to any person to whom this is happening, but maybe instead of comparing Wang to C.C. Sabathia or Mike Mussina, maybe we should be comparing him to Dontrelle Willis. I know their pitching styles are vastly different, but it could be the cause of their decline is the same: too much pressure and/or injury leads to certain mental effects, which leads to certain physical effects, which leads to batters being able to read a pitcher like a Harry Potter novel.

Apr 21, 2009 10:54 AM
rating: 0
 
claremont

Wang has 600+ innings of above league average pitching as a groundball pitcher on a team with horrendous defense, and is on the right side of the age curve rather than the wrong one. I find it highly unlikely that the part of his brain which knows how to pitch good got erased, or that all of a sudden he can't deal with the pressure (and he has more than successfully faced that in NY). Maybe there is a minor chance he has a serious injury, that cannot be ruled out, but at this point that is pure speculation.

Pitching is a complicated, it is one of the things in sports that is hardest to hit the ground running at. Add his extended layover from last season, and it shouldn't be shocking that he is not fully in the groove or that his arm isn't acting the way it usually does. That (combined with the .600+ BA) is a MUCH more likely scenario for his struggles, rather than a mental breakdown or a sudden and severe lack of pitching skill.

Apr 22, 2009 00:53 AM
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