The Wang Elevation


Chien-Ming Wang Pitch Elevation(click graph for a larger view)

We’ve already taken in-depth looks at how much different Chien-Ming Wang’s stuff and release points are this year compared to last year, but I wanted to take a look something Wang usually excels at: keeping the ball down. The above graph shows what percentage of Wang’s sinkers (sinkers only since that’s his break and butter) ended up in five different sections of the strike zone (data from Pitch f/x). Pitches marked “High” and “Low” are out of the zone, while the actual strike zone is cut up into equal thirds dubbed “Up,” “Middle,” and “Down.” The thick black lines denote the top and bottom of the strike zone, if it wasn’t obvious enough.

It’s easy to see what made Wang so effective last year; 41.4% of his pitches were in the bottom third of the strike zone or lower, and 68.9% of his pitches were in the middle third or lower. This year though, it’s a much different story. Just 32.3% of his pitches are in the bottom third or lower, and only 57.5% were at or below the middle third of the strike zone. Even more troubling is that 28.4% of Wang’s pitches this year are in the upper third of the zone, and that means that those pitches are belt high based on how umpires call the game these days.

When you’ve lost movement and velocity from your sinker over the winter and groove more than a quarter of your pitchers into the hitter’s happy zone, you’re going to get pounded like Wang has. He’s allowed 29 base runners and 23 earned runs in just six (!!!) innings pitched this season. The dude’s rocking a 34.50 ERA and a 4.83 WHIP for chrissakes. It would take five consecutive complete game shutouts for the Wanger to lower his ERA to a respectable 4.06, and two consecutive perfect games to get his WHIP back around to his career average.

As Ben mentioned earlier, the Yanks have the option of skipping Wang’s next start on Thursday thanks to the off day, and letting him work on whatever he needs to during the ten day break. In fact, I’ll say that it’s more than likely that the Yanks will go that route. If Wang doesn’t get himself sorted out in that time, then they need to start looking for other solutions, especially since everyone claims he’s not hurt. It won’t stay April forever.

Categories : Analysis


  1. Drew says:

    I’m just hoping that all of this is due to the fact that Chien’s arm is just too rested. He’s always been up in the zone when this was the case.

  2. Spaceman.Spiff says:

    Wow, 5 consecutive shutouts? I guess you really can ruin your season numbers in April if you try hard enough.

    • Its fun to kick around those numbers, but really, who cares. If he straightened himself out and pitched from here on to his career averages, nobody will care if his ERA winds up around 5 at the end of the year. Just get back on track, that’s the main thing.

      • Joey H says:

        As the old adage goes, “It’s not how you start it’s how you finish.”

      • Drew says:

        Bottom line, a good ERA is always great but he’s only 0-3, in three months he can be 11-6. I may be the only one, but I’m not freaking out over Wanger, I have to assume he’ll find it, sooner than later.

      • Steve H says:

        Much like Lowe in 2004. 5.42 ERA in the regular season was wiped away by how he dominated in the playoffs (after sucking down the stretch).

      • Accent Shallow says:

        If Wang pitches 200 more innings at his career averages this year, he’d finish with an ERA of 4.89, and a WHIP of 1.46.

        • Accent Shallow says:

          Also, in order to reach his career averages, he’d need to pitch 200 innings at a 3.06 ERA, and a 1.21 WHIP.

  3. Joey H says:

    Thanks for pouring salt on an open wound Mike. lol. Great work. This puts things in perspective. But I have to say. He looks a lot better today than he did in Tampa.

  4. Simon B. says:

    Kevin Devaney, subbing for Fatty Ham, reports that the Yankees can’t demote Wang because he has no more option years left.

    Every time it seems like I’ve figured out how options work, I get confused again. I thought if they don’t option him down (which I don’t believe they have since Wang was promoted in 2005), they would remain until 5 years of service time.

    How do they really work?

  5. toad says:

    I actually don’t believe he’s not hurt.

    Just my opinion.

  6. shammy says:

    With Joba and Wang this team really needs a mule in the pen they can run out there just to eat up innings. Who can they put in this role, whatever happened to Humberto Sanchez?

  7. Big Mike says:

    Wang just needs to disappear to the minors for awhile. He clearly does not have the same zip on his pitches and his sinker is nonexistent.

    I like the idea of skipping his next start and then bringing Hughes up.

    Girardi just can’t pitch this guy again until he sees that velocity come back and his sinker moving like it used to. The guy is nothing more than a batting pratice pitcher at the moment.

    We can specualte all we want on why he has lost these two things, but I’m not sure we will ever find out.

    I wish Wang all the best and hope he gets everything squared away.

    Lets hope AJ can come up clutch again tomorrow and then the Yanks sweep the A’s.

    • Joey H says:

      In a perfect world Mike.. In a perfect world.. He needs some strength training for his velocity and needs some highly intense instruction to get his mechanics back in order. Then we got ourselves a perfect CMW!

      • steve (different one) says:

        i have no idea what they will do with Wang, but i will say this: i think this decision is above Girardi at this point.

  8. Joey H says:

    Hey guys. I know Wang did a ton of bike work and so on and so forth during the off season while rehabbing. But how much arm work did he do?

    • Drew says:

      That’s what I meant up on the top of this thread. Even before the offseason rehab began, his arm didn’t get the workload that he’s been used to. When he was in a boot, I don’t think he was sitting in a chair throwing. lol

      • Joey H says:

        Yeah so I guess that solves the velocity dilemma. I’m a firm believer in that the real CMW will return but it’s tough to have patience with a team that has such high expectations.

  9. Drew says:

    DotF, Ed Nunez had another error today! Wtf? This dude has an error everyday it seems.

  10. DP says:

    What an awesome game to go to!

  11. Zach says:

    Who gets Wang’s next start, Hughes or Kennedy?

    • Drew says:

      Everyone is banking on Phil. Assuming Wanger doesn’t go again.

    • Joey H says:

      Probably will get skipped. Which is probably the best thing. Why throw either of the next best options into a huge fire that is the Red Sox?

    • Spaceman.Spiff says:

      Should skip him next start and reevaluate then. Maybe IPK throws another gem down in AAA, maybe Hughes does, maybe Girardi feels the next start is a good place for CMW to try and get back on track due to promising bullpen sessions ironing out mechanics. We can sit on this a little before we make a call.

  12. Willy says:

    I don’t understand how everyone jumps on Wang about his velocity after a season ending injury last year, but when Joba is in the same boat yesterday everyone says it’s the beginning of the year.

  13. Willy says:

    This is true, I certainly have no idea how to fix him.

  14. Big Mike says:


    Joba has had a very nice outing against the Royals. Wanger has had nothing that even resembles a mediocre outing, let alone a good one.

    Joba’s problem yesterday was walks. That is certainly easier to fix than velocity and the redevelopment of a sinker.

    I am comfortable with where Joba is at as a 5th starter for the Yankees. I think he will be fine.

    I am very, very uncomfortable even seeing Wang in pinstripes right now.

    Lets all hope he can get his act together down in Scranton. If not, Hughes is going to have to strap on his big boy shoes and pony up or Cashman will have to work another miracle trade for someone to eat up innings like Ponson did last year.

  15. Big Mike says:

    I’m looking at Ian Kennedy’s minor league stats and it just boggles my mind how he wasn’t effective for the Yankees.

    I would be really hesitant to call him up, but the way he pitched last year in the minors and the start he is off to this year it is hard to overlook him.

    However, I certainly remember cursing at the television last year when Kennedy was pitching just like I am doing now with Wang.

    • Joey H says:

      Boggles your mind? Why don’t people understand that great minor league success doesn’t always translate into good ML numbers

  16. Joseph M says:

    The first thing, Wang must be pulled from his next start. Anyone who thinks this can be fixed in a bullpen session or two is not paying attention. Something is wrong here, something is definitely wrong. Wang has had three starts, the first one was bad, the second much worse and the third horrific.

    From what’s been posted so far it appears that the Yanks can’t send him down to the minors, however I seem to remember Dontrelle Willis going down last year (not that it did any good) but he needed to consent to the demotion. Whatever, this is not something that can be worked out between starts or working mop up, if he can’t be sent down then the Yanks are going to have to DL him and try to fix him at the Tampa compound.

    As we enter April 19, 2009, Wang is not a major league pitcher, and that is the plain and simple fact.

    • The new Yankee Stadium sucks says:

      Dontrelle cleared waivers because of his contract…nobody wanted a 3 year 30 million dollar project. Wang is a different story at 1 year and 5 million, no chance he clears. Whether or not he’d accept the assignment is meaningless, a team like washington or baltimore would claim him in a heartbeat.

  17. Drew says:

    T-Claggs really got the screwgie today. Poor guy

  18. According to RLYW (link above), Wang has the worst ERA for any starter in the Retrosheet era over any stretch of three starts.

  19. Drew says:

    Damn Lidell got beastified buy Shogun. Chuck has got to retire.

  20. jim p says:

    MLB network had photos of Wang last April and this in his windup. Last year he was standing up straight, his left knee went up past his belt, and he had his hands close to his body.

    This year his posture looks like an “s”, his left leg goes nowhere near his belt, and his hands are loose. (I may have reversed the hands positions, btw.)

    What this means, the reporters said, is that his ball doesn’t come down at the batter. It’s coming in on a more horizontal plane. “Negates the advantage of the raised mound,” said one.

    The speculated the reason his posture has changed is either because he is protecting his bad foot, or it’s still bad. Looking at it, I thought his back might be hurting.

    If you catch it, it’s pretty convincing when you see the difference in the photos.

  21. claybeez says:

    Caught that. It was a striking visual. I’m not sophisticated enough to judge their analysis, but you could imagine how the change would affect his delivery and the much discussed released point. Sure hope Eiland is on top of this one.

  22. Joseph M says:

    The MLB network film and comments seem to confirm that he may have a health issue and may need more time before coming back. He can’t help the team right now so they might as well shut him down. Honestly he may need a few months before he’s ready to begin rehab.

  23. VO says:

    I did a little research from Wang’s starts this year and last year and in a simple video by looking closely you can tell the difference. Check it out http://8thinning.blogspot.com/.....-wang.html

  24. Zack says:

    I dont know his stats from ST but he obviously was better then this- what changed between March and April?

  25. [...] we’ve used pitch f/x numbers to show that his pitches aren’t sinking and his release point is off, we don’t need these illuminating features to know what’s [...]

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