What Went Wrong: Chien-Ming Wang


Over the next week or so, we’ll again break down what went wrong and what went right for the Yankees. The series this year will be much more enjoyable than the last.

Chien-Ming Wang goes down for the count

The 2009 Yankees came into the season sporting one of the most exciting rotations in the big leagues, as imports CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett joined forces with the incumbent Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain. After missing the last five months of 2008 with a fluke foot injury, Wang was supposed to be the rock in the two spot between Sabathia and Burnett. It was a pivotal season in the sinkerballer’s career, but instead it turned into a nightmare.

In his first start of the season, the Orioles put ten runners on base and scored seven runs while forcing Wang to throw 73 pitches in just 3.2 IP. Five days later, the Rays hung eight runs on Wang in just one inning of work. Five days after that, the Indians smacked him around for eight runs in 1.1 IP, and before long Wang ended up on the disabled list with what was called “weakness in the hips.”

There were all sorts of red flags about Wang’s early season performance. His velocity was down, his stuff wasn’t crisp, and he was elevating way too many pitches. It was all a recipe for disaster, and frankly that’s what those three starts were.

After working with the organization’s pitching instructors down in Tampa, Wang made a pair of better than good rehab starts (13 IP, 6 H, 0 R) with Triple-A Scranton before being hastily activated. His return from the disabled list was a clear panic move made after Joba was feared injured when he took a liner to the leg and left a start early. Working initially in relief, Wang was uncomfortable and his results were a mixed bag – just two runs in eight innings, but a .300 AVG against. Soon enough, the Yankees inserted Wanger back into the rotation, a rather questionable move.

His first start back in the rotation was ugly (eight baserunners and five runs in 4.2 IP against Texas), but after that he was pretty serviceable for about a month. The high point of Wang’s season came on June 28th, when he finally picked up his first win of the season thanks to 5.1 IP of two run ball in CitiField. In his next start, Wang left the mound with the trainer after serving up a meatball to Adam Lind.

At first, the latest injury didn’t seem serious. Wang was pain-free just two weeks after leaving his start, but not long after that he went down again after feeling pain during a game of catch. Three opinions later, Wang’s season was over in late July when he had season ending surgery to repair a torn labrum.

It may, or may not have all started in the offseason, when the Yankees told Wang to take it easy on his injured foot. It was used as an excuse, but frankly we’ll never know. The bottom line is that for the third time in eight years, the righthander missed a significant portion of the season with a shoulder issue.

And now, just a little more than four months after he last appeared in a game, Wang’s future with the Yankees is in doubt. Just the other day we heard that Wang was heading to see Dr. Andrews for a checkup on his surgically repaired shoulder, and reports indicate that he’s doing “remarkably well.” Regardless, there’s still a chance the Yankees will non-tender him in December, but even if they don’t, there’s no way the team could rely on him for anything next season.

The Yankees managed to win 103 games and their 27th World Series without their number two starter, but that doesn’t mean Wang’s awful season can be brushed under the rug.

Photo Credit: Nick Laham, Getty Images

Categories : Analysis


  1. Based on the picture atop the post, I think we can all say that the red Yankee hat is what went wrong with Chien-Ming Wang. Am I right or am I right?

  2. theyankeewarrior says:

    Right, right right.

    This section should be called “WHAT WENT WANG”

  3. Rose says:

    I’m hearing more and more on ESPN and other talk radio shows on how the Yankees are probably going to re-negotiate a contract with Wang for next year (even though he probably won’t be available until AT LEAST next July). Any merit to any of this? Or do you feel he’ll just be ignored and we’ll be looking elsewhere (MLB Traderumors has us going after Lackey – God I hope not)

  4. Anything the Yanks get from Wang in 2010 would be a bonus for me. The Yanks have to move forward and basically make moves with the idea that he won’t pitch in ’10.

    This way, if for some reason he is able to comeback, it’s icing on the cake.

  5. Rose says:

    What’s with the Asian’s and them getting one injury and then all of the sudden becoming a glass man.

    Matsui was an iron man for quite some time…then he broke his wrist on a fluke play and the domino effect occurred…now his knees are gone and he can’t play the field.

    Wang was fine but hurts his foot on a strange fluke incident…and now his shoulder and everything else is busted up.

    “Man who catch fly with chopstick, accomplish anything” – Mr. Miyagi

    • JMK aka The Overshare says:

      I bet that sort of humor is well-appreciated in Fort Lee.

    • Doug says:

      YEAH SERIOUSLY WHAT’S WITH THOSE ASIANS AMIRITE. They all look the same, it’s really cool and funny to make a Mr. Miyagi joke about a Taiwanese guy.

      God, that is some Jeff Dunham levels of low right there.

      Keep fucking that chicken.

    • Ed says:

      You’re forgetting that this is Wang’s second shoulder surgery. He also had a shoulder injury a few years ago that cost him a few months but didn’t require surgery.

      He’s always had a questionable shoulder. That’s why the Yankees never signed him long term.

      • Chien says:

        There was a surgery. Before the surgery, Wang was actually a curve ball pitcher. He was signed by Yankee because of his ability to pitch wide angle of curve ball. Not sinker. After the surgery, the coach down in Tampa felt that he could try sinker to relief some presure on his shoulder. That’s how he got his trademark heavy sinker ball.

        As news said, he will start light pitching activity as of December 1 and should be available by spring training.

        Giving him a minor league contract is simply stupid. After non-tender and making him a free agent, any team could sign him a major league contract with $400,000 salary and loaded incentive. This will be the risk Yankee needs to take. What a scene to see Yankees hitting his sinker into double play!

  6. Mike Pop says:

    Obviously, we all had much higher expectations for Wang this year. But, I still think you have to try and bring him back. Non tender him and then try to get him back on a cheaper deal, preferably minor league deal. Who knows if he’d be down for that though.

    I just think the upside of Wang back is worth the risk of bringing him back. One more year to see what he can do, and then go from there.

  7. pete says:

    my prediction: the yankees offer him a minor league deal soon. wang either accepts and everything is golden, or he declines and looks elsewhere, only to come back to us in january when nobody has offered him anything better. We, being the merciful overlords that we are, welcome him back with open (minor league) arms. He starts the season in July in Scranton, and replaces hughes in the rotation in mid-august, dominates all the way down the stretch run and through the postseason. every problem ever, solved.

    • chien says:

      Well, your prediction is simply not working. Angels, Mariners, Dodgers, and many others could simply throw in $400,000 petty cash and give him a major league contract. If there is a major league contract available, who is going to take a pitty minor league contract from Yankees?

      My prediction will be that Yankee either offers him a minimum of $1 million plus contract with incentive, or he will be gone.

      • Ken in Taipei says:

        A rumor appeared here in Taipei today that Joe Torre has been in touch with Wanger. The rumor appeared the same day that Kuo Hong-chih arrived back here for a holiday.

        However, Wanger has said several times that he wants to stay in New York. Plus, as we all know, and he knows very clearly, the guy can’t bat! National League is not the place for him.

  8. 5th Starter says:



    In AAA getting ready for the call up:


  9. [...] Mike wrote this morning, Wang is no stranger to shoulder injuries. “The bottom line is that for the third time in [...]

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