• What Went Wang?

    Posted by on May 27th, 2009 · Comments (11)

    Today, Peter Abraham wrote:

    Chien-Ming Wang has pitched horrifically this season. Brutally, terribly, awfully. Let’s get that right out of the way.

    But he was 46-15 with a 3.74 ERA before he hurt his foot last June and has never given the Yankees one ounce of trouble. He shows up, does his job and has been a model teammate.

    This is all true. And, to be candid, in a comment elsewhere on this blog today, I shared that I never saw “this” coming for Wang this season.

    But, then again, after his 1991 and 1992 seasons, in April of 1993, did anyone see “it” coming for then 23-year old Steve Avery?

    More recently, after his 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons, in April of last year, did anyone see “it” coming for then 30-year old Aaron Harang?

    After his 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 seasons, in April of 2006, did anyone see “it” coming for then 27-year old Mark Buehrle?

    After his 1992, 1993 and 1994 seasons, in April of 1995, did anyone see “it” coming for then 29-year old Ken Hill?

    After his 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons, in April of 2004, did anyone see “it” coming for then 29-year old Matt Morris?

    After his 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988 seasons, in April of 1989, did anyone see “it” coming for then 27-year old Danny Jackson?

    After his 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons, in April of 2004, did anyone see it coming for then 25-year old Joel Pineiro?

    After his 1997 and 1998 seasons, in April of 1999, did anyone see it coming for then 26-year old Justin Thompson?

    If you’re being honest, the answers to all these questions is probably “no.” (And, for the record, these are just some recent cases where a pitcher has hit the skids where it seemed like that could not happen to him, at that point. There are many, many, more that can be cited.)

    Now, this is NOT to say that Worm Killer Wang will have a terrible 2009. And, even if he does, this is NOT to imply that his career is over.

    But, this does suggest that, sometimes, for no reason that you could see coming, a pitcher, who appears to be a solid and proven commodity at the big league level, can have a season where it is ALL DOWNHILL for him – and out of the blue – at an age where it doesn’t seem probable (to happen).

    Why? Hey, as these cases prove, it’s happened in the past and it can happen again…at any time, to anyone.

    Comments on What Went Wang?

    1. Raf
      May 27th, 2009 | 10:49 pm

      Are these some of the names featured in the “wipeout” study?

      Thanks…

    2. May 27th, 2009 | 10:59 pm

      Not that I recall. The James study focused more on wins and losses, IIRC. Guys who went from 20-win and CYA type seasons to seasons the next year where they lost close to 20, or went something like 6-10.

      These are all guys that I found, using the CBE, who had more than one year – and sometimes several – in a row with more than 25 GS and nice RSAA totals who then had a year where they tanked, in terms of RSAA.

    3. yagottagotomo1
      May 27th, 2009 | 11:03 pm

      Good point. People keep saying that multiple 19 game winners dont just forget how to pitch. We see that with the help of some injuries or other circumstances, it could happen.

    4. sanair
      May 27th, 2009 | 11:06 pm

      If this really is point of no return, it’s quite a sad story. Wang seemed like a no-sense fella who didn’t make waves, and who worked hard at his craft (didn’t he pick-up the sinker pretty late in his career?). I’d rather see a roider/cheater like Andy have a career come to an abrupt and awful end before Wang.

    5. May 27th, 2009 | 11:13 pm

      The “don’t forget how to pitch” notion is an interesting one. I could see how that might apply to someone like Mussina, last year. But, Wang? Was he ever “a pitcher”? Or, more so, someone who just poured sinkers with gas down your throat until you were a beaten batter? And, if the latter is true, then, did he know anything, really, that cannot be forgotten?

    6. Evan3457
      May 27th, 2009 | 11:46 pm

      Wang’s sinker looked much better tonight, though the Rangers’ free swinger may have helped some.

      It’s a step in the right direction, at least.

      Oh…almost forgot…1st place!!! :-)

    7. Raf
      May 28th, 2009 | 12:15 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      The James study focused more on wins and losses, IIRC.

      Really? I would’ve thought he knew better

    8. Raf
      May 28th, 2009 | 12:19 am

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      The “don’t forget how to pitch” notion is an interesting one. I could see how that might apply to someone like Mussina, last year.

      Last year, or the year before? Moose’s FIP was reasonable @ 4.01 in 2007 when he posted a 5.15 ERA.

    9. Jake1
      May 28th, 2009 | 8:37 am

      maybe if Wang ever learned how to actually pitch instead of relying on a 94mph sinker he would be able to make adjustments and get thru this.

    10. MJ
      May 28th, 2009 | 8:53 am

      The encouraging thing is that in certain of the cases (Buehrle/Harang*), they bounced back to resume their appropriate career levels. As Yagottagotomo said, a sudden deviating from one’s career trajectory is indicative of how a devastating injury can temporarily derail a great career. Personally, I think that’s what has happened to Wang thus far. He will eventually be 100% healthy and confident in his body and will resume being the solid pitcher he once was.

      *In Harang’ case, he’s in the middle of the bounce-back so far this year.

    11. Sicilian Lou
      May 28th, 2009 | 3:05 pm

      Hey Steve, didn’t the article also go on to say something in effect as to why Wang is treated like an unwanted dinner guest?.. Do you think the Yankees have it in for wang?.. The guy prior to getting hurt has been a model citizen and not so much as anyone saying a bad thing about him in the club house.. Why are the Yankees so cautious on using him or do you think the front office might have a thing against him?

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