Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Problem with Wang

There's good news and bad new about Chien-Ming Wang. The bad news is he can't pitch out of the stretch. The good news is this is so painfully obvious, it's safe to assume the Yankees will be working with him on this. He'll often look great for an inning, needing under 10 pitches to get through it. Then in the next couple of innings let the leadoff man get on, be pitching out of the stretch, looking horrible in needing close to 60 pitches to get through a couple of innings. You think he's on the way out, but then he retires the next 11 batters in order needing only 35 pitches to do so.

Out of the windup he has baseball's best sinker pitch. It dives down creating ground ball after ground ball. So much so that in a game last season Wang recorded 9 assists himself, as they couldn't get the ball past the mound. However, despite how many runners he's let on, before his last start, when Robinson Cano turned a nifty double play, he had gone a couple of consecutive games without even one ground ball double play. He loses his control out of the stretch, the sinker hangs, and he looks like Jamie Navarro circa 1997.

This season with the bases empty Wang has a .211 opponents batting average. With runners on base the league hits .365 off of him. The problem was there last season, but not as profound as it's been this year. If the Yankees can get Wang to have the same effectiveness out of the stretch as he has out of the windup, Wang would be an all-star pitcher. If they can't, his career might end up a lot like Jamie Navarro's did.

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