Wang’s problems reminiscent of unpopular Yank

Yanks' 9th round pick, #290 overall
The next Big Thing

Remember April? It’s easy to start off an article that way, since things are so vastly different now than they were then. Now Jason Giambi is helping carry this offense. Now Melky Carbera has cooled off, to say the least. And now Chien-Ming Wang is having his bout with ineffectiveness.

During the season’s first month, Wang was 5-0, picking up his sixth win without a loss on May 2. Since then, he’s 0-2, and has seen his ERA balloon from an even 3.00 to 4.57. The “Wang is an ace” crowd was getting rather indignant in April. They’re not quite eating crow yet, but their arrogance was certainly overstated.

According to pitching coach Dave Eiland and catcher Jorge Posada, Wang’s troubles are in the form of a mechanical issue. I’m loathe to write this phrase, since it was also attributed to Randy Johnson when he came to New York, but it appears Wang is “flying open” during his delivery. This leads him to “drop his right elbow and push the ball rather than drive it down. That means no sink on his sinker and a loss of command.”

Posada notes that because he uses different arm angles for his slider and sinker, he’s having trouble moving from the former to the latter. This seems a bit strange to me. If he’s using different arm angles for specific pitches, isn’t that an easy tip to hitters? Then again, that could be another facet of his recent struggles.

So we’re getting less than expected from Pettitte and Wang, and realizing the worst case scenarios from IPK and Hughes. Yes, we’re getting far more than anyone could have expected from Mike Mussina and Darrell Rasner, but that hasn’t quite balanced things out yet. But as the offense returns to its true form, we’re going to rely on these pitchers to drive us a 15th straight playoff appearance.

Yanks' 9th round pick, #290 overall
The next Big Thing
  • A.D.

    The famed “flying-open” thatm injury, or throwing strikes are pretty much the only 3 reasons ever given for pitchers lack of success

  • Travis

    Jorge Posada has been out of action since April 28. Chien-Ming Wang hasn’t won since May 2. Coincidence? Perhaps CMW is missing his catcher more than anything.

  • Axl

    This is from a rant I typed on the “Bruney Returning” blog…didn’t think it would get read much there though…

    Why is it that every single pitcher we have gotten in the past several years…has really sucked. I mean you’d think that at least ONE of them would do what they were suppose to. Viscaino did his job for the most part but still was shaky at times…we never have anybody dominant. Right now the Blue Jays have 4 left handed relievers with ERA’s under 2.00. 4 of them. We have one left handed reliever…and almost everybody short of Rivera has an ERA over 4.00. Even the starters in the past…Kevin Brown’s game coincidentially went drastically down once he joined our team, Randy Johnson realized he didn’t want to pitch in the cold, contreras was suppose to be this ridiculous pitcher and of course expectations never were live up to, Vasquez did horrible for us, even our young pitchers can’t even win a ball game. Meanwhile all of these former pitchers are doing fine on other teams…and the Red Sox youngsters who were ranked lower than ours…are pitching no-hitters.
    Is the curse actually reversed? What is going on here?
    This year is especially worse because at least we used to hit and score a bunch of runs…1st in the league last year…and now we’re near the bottom…have no pitching…yet somehow manage to be .500 at the moment.
    The worst part about it is the Red Sox aren’t even doing that great…they aren’t nearly as good as they were last year…and we’re not taking advantage of it.
    Is it lack of feeling like a team? It can’t be the managing as we’ve just had 2 totally different types manage us in the past 2 years and we have the same result…is it the money? Or maybe it’s everything and anything….these guys make bazillions of dollars and if they lose a game…its no big deal because they’re going to go home to their ridiculous homes and have a cocktail and relax. They’re getting paid regardless.
    It just boggles the mind how consistently inconsistent this team can be year after year. And when they did click last year and went 25 games over .500 in just the second half last year….conveniently the “HOT” status went immediately cold at just the right time…Round 1 of the playoffs.

    With Wang, it just seems like we can never catch a break….when Wang and Pettitte are on…everyone else is bad…and when Mussina and Rasner are stepping it up….it’s time for Pettitte and Wang to conveniently do bad. When Damon is on a hitting streak…let’s make sure Jeter is not hitting like he usually does…it’s just like everything is happening so script like…it’s unbelievable….how all of this could possibly happen constantly every year…boggles my mind. When we’re hitting well…we have no pitching…when the bullpen is good…the starters are terrible…when the starters do better….the bullpen does worse…
    I just don’t understand it…there has to be something strange going on

    Makes me sick. something needs to be done.

  • Adam

    looking briefly at the PitchF/X from wang’s start yesterday, his sinker’s “sink” appears to be right in line with earlier this year and last year (~5″-6″ vertical), and the release point for all of his various pitchers we almost exactly the same dispelling jorge’s theory.

    the big differences are that wang threw only 4ish sliders yesterday, his sinker velocity was closer to 92 than his usual 94, and over half of his sinkers were in the top half of the strike zone. it is a little disconcerting that he threw slower and his fastballs were up, as usually overthrown fastballs are left up in the zone, while slower sinkers should have more sink. “flying open” could explain this i guess as not finishing his pitches will remove some velocity and leave them up in the zone, but really who knows? eiland hopefully.

  • Rob_in_CT

    “They’re not quite eating crow yet, but their arrogance was certainly overstated.”

    CMW has basically been a 3.75 ERA pitcher in the AL East, 2 years in a row. I’ve not asserted that he’s an “ace” per se, but I’ve often defended him against those who rail against him for “not being an ace” — specifically because those arguments tend to be conclude that he sucks and should be traded, or that the Yankees should make [insert bad trade here] to provide the ace Wang isn’t.

    So now Wang has had a bad month, after being rocked in the playoffs last Oct. Much like one cannot conclude he is an ace b/c he had a great April, one cannot conclude that he sucks donkey balls because he had a bad May (the months are rough approximations – I know it’s June now).

    As for the “flying open” thing… I’ve heard that thousands of times about hundreds of pitchers. I never associated it specifically with the Unit.

    • Adam

      pure and simple, aces just don’t go through stretches like this. they don’t go out and give up 7 runs in 4 innings a few times a year. being an ace is more than just pitching games were you give up 4 hits over 8 innings and give up no runs. being an ace means you pitch well almost every single time you take the hill, and while wang has pitched great more often than not, he is still way to inconsistent to be the centerpiece of our rotation for years to come.

      • Double-J

        So is CC Sabathia now no longer an ‘ace’ by your standards?

        • Adam

          his era is 4.81 and he is 3-7. is he pitching like an ace to you?

          • Double-J

            So if Beckett loses the next 5 starts, is he no longer an ‘ace’ too?

            • Adam

              come on man, i don’t want to get into an argument over the semantics of small sample sizes. my original point was that an ace should give you a chance to win almost every time he starts, and honestly, wang hasn’t been doing that. and if beckett really is an ace, then he probably won’t go out and lose his next 5 starts. i hope i’m wrong though.

              • Rob_in_CT

                You don’t want to argue “semantics” or you don’t want to talk specifics?

                I see you dodging specifics. Even aces have bad starts. Even aces have prolonged periods of ineffectiveness. Even at the height of his powers, occasionally Pedro would get smacked around. Much to his credit, those tended to be very isolated incidents (Wang < Pedro, obviously).

                See, it all comes down to defining “ace.” Really defining it. Then we can decide whether Wang fits the bill or not. My own personal definition is a guy who does two things:

                1) Keeps the other team from scoring at a significantly higher rate that the league norm. In the AL, this is probably about a 3.5 ERA or lower;

                2) Goes deep into games most of the time (averages 6-7 IP/start);

                Wang has typically be close, but not quite, what I see as an ace. He does usually get deep into games, and his era has been solid… but not elite. So he’s not quite an ace to me. The hope from this April was that he’d added some versatility that would push him over into the ace category. This bout with “flying open” has wrecked that for now (and it seems that versatility – i.e. his secondary pitches – is part of the problem for him as he has 2 different release points for sinker/slider).

                As for Beckett… well, it wasn’t so long ago that Josh Beckett put up an ERA of 5 in a full season. Then he goes out, has a great year and backs it up with an awesome run in the playoffs, and 2006 is forgotten. Perhaps he’ll never do that again, but the record shows that even that bonafide ace pitcher went through a LONG (as in a full season) period of suckiness.

                • Adam

                  fine, you want specifics? here are some specifics:

                  out of 13 starts this year, Wang has given up 5+ earned runs in 5 of them. that is almost 40% “bad” starts. i am struggling to see how anyone can be called an “ace” if you put your team at a disadvantage 40% of the time you pitch.

  • Bo

    He just needs to focus and don’t walk anyone.

    Yanks took Venditte again.

  • Axl

    Who cares who’s an ace? That’s the least of our problems..usually they call somebody an ace because the rest of the pitching staff is very good to mediocre…and the “Ace” is the one who is the best of the best.
    The rest of the Yankees staff isn’t very good to mediocre…they are inconsistently mediocre to inconsistently worse. Calling somebody an “Ace” of a mediocre to bad squad…isn’t anything necessary.
    That would be like somebody telling you to pick the nicest serial killer out of the bunch and give him a name. Why? What’s the point? There isn’t one.
    Yes, Wang has won 38 games in the past 2 years…he’s not terrible but he’s still inconsistent.
    An “Ace” isn’t inconsistent. They have one bad game each half of the season at most. Other than that…they are extremely consistent and very good at what they do.
    Wang seems like he still doesn’t know which guy he’s going to be when he comes out on the mound…and that’s no ace.
    If you’d like to call him “The best of the Worst”…be my guest…

  • Greg

    Wang is not pitching well, I understand that. But because of one bad month I should throw him under the bus and not label him as the “Ace of the Staff”? That is ridiculous. Moose is pitching like a man possessed of late, and “Everyday Andy” hasn’t been pitching up to his potential, but he hasn’t been killing us either. Ras has been a God-send, but Wang is the best pitcher we have. Once he gets it figured out, he is a quality starter.

    As for the kids: Hughes and Kennedy are going to be studs. They are my age so I can relate with why they haven’t succeeded 1) They were rushed to the majors and hyped like crazy by people like me. 2) Because they were rushed to the majors they have been trying too hard and clearly over pitching (Injuries). And Joba I believe will be a stud pitcher. But he isn’t going to be a stud right away. Keep him on his pitch counts, AND LET THE OTHER TEAMS KNOW IT! It will force Joba to be more efficient, and if he is locating, regardless of his pitch count his opponent is going to have to swing.

    The bats will come around, and hopefully my boy Cano will remember how to play baseball (regardless he is batting about .300 over the past 30 days).

    And we are 6.5 games out right? With average starting pitching, of late a weak bullpen, and a ton of injuries, as a fans why do you expect more? Yesterday’s win was something the team can build off and with Kansas City coming into town, the Yanks should be able to shave at least another game off that AL East deficit.

    Sit tight fans; don’t live your life through Joba’s starts, and watch as our team battles back to first place in the AL East.

    • BaltimoreYank

      Even with playing KC, I’m not so sure the Yankees will gain any ground this weekend. The Red Sox are playing a worse team than KC.

  • Axl

    Is it me or does it seem like we play at least one Ace every single series…I mean I know you hit them a bunch of times…but I can’t recall ever catching the back end of a rotation…meanwhile the Red Sox not only got to play the Milwaukee Brewers in interleague play…but also faced off against guys like Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush…I mean give me a break!
    I think they’ve only faced like less than a handful of aces this whole season so far…meanwhile we’re facing Scott Kazmir and Johan Santana in back to back nights! Unbelievable!