Chien-Ming Wang’s non-sinking sinker, and other issues


If you haven’t yet read Jay’s article about Chien-Ming Wang’s failing sinker, I suggest you do that now. It’s a thoughtful article that examines Wang’s 2009 season, in particular his flat sinker. It was so flat, in fact, that pitch f/x frequently miscategorized it as a two-seamer. There were times when he did get decent movement on his sinker, though it still didn’t sink as much in 2009, or even 2008, as it did in 2007. When he did execute the sinker in 2009, it was about a half mile an hour slower, on average, than 2007.

After reading Jay’s post, I was reminded of something Mike wrote last year about the same topic. He took a graphical look at Wang’s release point and where the ball crossed the plate. It’s clear, even to those unfamiliar with pitch f/x, that Wang’s release point was more over the top in 2009 than it was during his glory years. The movement began, it seems, in May of 2008, when Wang started pitching poorly after a good start to the season.

In response to Jay’s post, Will Carroll added a bit about biometric analysis. He adds another level to the discussion, as he brings in the mechanics of Wang’s shoulder. Apparently, according to research conducted by Dr. James Andrews, a pitcher’s bone structure “changes to accommodate the demands of pitching.” He also notes that the Yankees do not perform biomechanical analyses on their pitchers, which seems a bit odd. With such large investments at stake, I would think they want all the information possible on their most volatile players.

We heard earlier this week that Wang will sign with the Nationals, and while those rumors have been debunked for the time being, it would not surprise me at all to see him land there. They’re the type of team that can take this kind of gamble, as their pitching staff can use all the help it can get. Not that Wang provides even the slightest semblance of a guarantee. He’s a two-pitch pitcher who has seen one of those pitches lose its effectiveness. Maybe he could find success by throwing fewer fastballs, but that would require more than one secondary pitch.

While this post is mainly to point out some interesting information on a not-quite-former Yankee, it’s also to say that the Yankees certainly have their reasons for not pursuing Wang. The odds, it appears, are stacked against him.

Categories : Pitching
  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    I’m pulling for the Wanger, but I’m not optimistic about his future. There has been a ton of guys throughout history who have a few good years and injuries derail their careers. Considering the relative quirkiness with Wang’s success (low K-rate, few pitches), I’m guessing he falls into the career permanantely derailed category.

  • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

    “He also notes that the Yankees do not perform biomechanical analyses on their pitchers, which seems a bit odd.”

    A bit odd is a bit of an understatement. I don’t know why the Yankees would ignore this field of analysis, but it seems to be to be foolishly ignorant. It also may explain why a lot of their pitchers fit a particular mechanical “framework”.

    In short, I hope this isn’t true, and if it is I am very angry.

    • radnom

      Eh, at least they make pitchers they acquire in trades take physicals.

      • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

        Yes, let’s all clap our hands because we’re better than the Mets.

        Seriously, there’s no reason for the Yankees to ignore biomechanics. Whether or not you’re a huge biomechanics student or not, you have to think it would behoove the Yankees to study and analyze as much as possible about every player in their control. There’s too much money at stake, and the risks are very high.

        • radnom

          Haha I don’t disagree. It is a bit odd, but I can’t get too worked up about it. Its an oversight, but in general the Yankees seem to be open to new methods to maximize their players. I’m sure its only a matter of time.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

    As the Nats are part of my three-team rotation for second favorite team in baseball (along with the Pirates and Royals), I hope the Wanger puts it all back together.

    If they get a solid contribution from him, they can probably piece together a half-decent rotation with some combination Lannan, Marquis, Olsen, Wang, Strasburg, Detwiler, Martis, and Jordan Zimmerman (when he returns from TJS). I’m pulling for them.

    Maybe they can catch the Mets for 4th place.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      I can see rooting for the Royals on the surface, but considering their last 2 or 3 offseasons, that’s not enough to drive you away?

      • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

        Their last 2 or 3 offseasons aren’t any worse than any of the other offseasons. At least they locked up Zack Attack.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Their putridity doesn’t drive me away, it pulls me closer.

        The Royals are like your drunken uncle who embarrasses the family at social gatherings and is constantly on the run from his bookie. Each failure is heartbreaking, but you still want to see him succeed for once in his life. You can’t give up on him.

        Root for the underdog, even if that dog is stupid.

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          Well then enjoy the Hank Blalock era, he’s a perfect fit.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

            I’m assuming the Royals acquired Rick Ankiel and Scott Podsednik this offseason with the explicit intention of having them crush their skulls colliding in the outfield, Cameron-Beltran style.

            Why? I have no idea. But it’s the only theory that makes any sense at all.

            • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

              It would get them on SportsCenter.

  • http://twitter.com/tafkasic the artist formerly known as (sic)

    Is there any way that Carroll is wrong about the Yanks and biomechanics? This is the exact quote:

    “Stunningly, the Yankees have never done a biomechanical analysis of the type Andrews offers at his Birmingham facility – not just on Wang, but on ANY of their pitchers. Some pitchers, like Sabathia, have had this done before coming to the Yankees.”

    He seems pretty categorical, so I’m assuming he’s got this on good information.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      Maybe they have but they’re not similar to the one he does?

      If true, it’s troubling that the Yankees don’t take this into consideration. Unless it’s done on a spreadsheet or something.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H



    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      I thought I once read that the Yanks did in-house biomechanics on their pitchers, but I haven’t been able to find a mention of it since I read the Carroll bit yesterday. Not everyone is sold on the effectiveness of biomechanics. Maybe the Yanks fall into that camp or maybe they just don’t broadcast what they do with their pitchers.

      • Fletch

        I would guess the latter. Given that the front office tries to keep their offseason maneuverings quiet until they actually have a deal, it would make sense that they wouldn’t talk openly about what kind of analysis they use, sabermetric, biomechanical or otherwise.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        Are the detractors also “birthers” skeptical of gravity?

      • Will Carroll

        Ben – I’m sure they take it into account, but as far as I know, they’ve never used ASMI or any similar facility. If anything, they’re watching pitchers and guessing as scouts have done for years. I know for a fact that they haven’t used ASMI and that they don’t have a system in house, but it’s possible (tho unlikely) that they’ve used one of the others. I don’t think so, but its possible. Less than five teams use ASMI or one of the other three similar facilities. Only two teams have their own system.

  • gargoyle

    I’ve always thought that Wang should throw MORE fastballs, particularly early in the count. I’ve seen him hit 95-96 on the gun with his fastball. Of course if the sinker ain’t sinking like it used to – well he’s sunk.

  • MikeD

    It seems to me that Wang started having some difficulty in early 2008 when the Yankees wanted him to incorporate a third pitch. If I remember, it was a slider, the same pitch that caused him arm issues earlier in his career, leading him to search for another pitch, which was the sinker.

    Is it possible the Yankees caused this problem?

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

      In April 2008 Wang went 5-0 with a 3.23 ERA, whatever he was doing then was working.

      • radnom

        And his K rates went way up when he started using the slider, if I can remember that far back correctly.

      • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

        And then after April 2008 but still in 2008, Wang did manage to go 6-3 but with a 4.66 ERA and a terrible 27:24 K:BB ratio. So whatever he was doing then wasn’t exactly working out too well.

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          Yeah, I just don’t think that after Wang went 5-0 with a 3.23 ERA the Yankees decided that they needed to fix him heading into May. While he only lasted half the season, there wasn’t a drastic change in his numbers that concern me. HR/9 and H/9 were right in line with his career, and K/9 and BB/9 were up slightly. In the Houston start that he got hurt in he had thrown 5 shutout innings with 3k’s and no BB’s. Long story short, I don’t think the Yankees can be blamed for anything.

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

            Also fangraphs shows no real difference in what he threw in 2008 as opposed to prior years.

  • scoopemup

    Bob Grim,Johnny Kucks,Tom Sturdevant,Steve Kline, Dennis Rasmussen,etc, and now Wang.Sometimes the glory years are gone before you know it.