ALDS Pitching Preview: Wei-Yin Chen

Four Yankees crack Baseball America's Top 20 Florida State League prospects list
Yankees designate Cory Wade for assignment

The Yankees took Game One from the Orioles last night, and in Game Two tonight they’ll give the ball to the playoff-tested Andy Pettitte. The Orioles are starting a left-hander of their own, but not a veteran like Pettitte. Rookie Wei-Yin Chen will be on the bump for Baltimore, the first playoff start of his MLB career.

Chen, 27, was born in Taiwan but spent the 2005-2011 seasons pitching for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan, where in 2009 he posted the league’s lowest ERA (1.54) in more than 50 years. He was not only the sole Orioles’ pitcher to remain in the rotation from Opening Day through the end of the season, he was also the only pitcher to make more than 20 starts for the team. His 32 starts and 192.2 innings are both career highs (including his time in Japan, obviously), and Chen appeared to hit a bit of a wall in September. It’s not just the raw starts and innings totals, it’s also going from a once-a-week schedule to a once every five days schedule.

2012 Performance vs. Yankees

Date Tm Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str
Apr 10 BAL NYY L,4-5 5.2 7 4 2 1 6 1 1 3.18 27 101 59
May 15 BAL NYY W,5-2 W(4-0) 7.0 4 2 2 2 4 1 0 2.45 26 105 65
Sep 1 BAL @ NYY L,3-4 L(12-8) 6.2 4 4 3 2 4 1 0 3.79 26 101 67
Sep 7 BAL NYY L,5-8 L(12-9) 4.2 6 7 7 1 4 3 1 4.06 22 68 43
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/7/2012.

Chen’s first ever start in the big leagues came against the Yankees, who have handled him well three of the four times they’ve faced him. For whatever reason, the left-hander always seems to keep them off balance the first time through the order before the Yankees get to him the second and third times through. Maybe I’m wrong, but it just feels like that’s the case. The two underwhelming September starts fit the whole “hitting a wall” narrative.

Pitch Selection (via Brooks Baseball)

Chen may throw five different pitches, but his sinker and curveball are rarely used fourth and fifth offerings. He’s primarily a fastball/slider guy against lefties while going fastball/changeup against righties, which is not uncommon at all. The four-seamer resides in the 90-91 mph range and the velocity held constant throughout the year, which doesn’t fit the whole “hitting a wall” narrative. Chen’s slider sits right around 80 while his changeup is more or less in the mid-80s. The sinker is at the same velocity as the four-seamer while the curve is a slow bender in the low-70s. Yes, the low-70s. As the data in the table shows, Chen likes to pitch backwards a bit, especially against lefties. He’ll start them out with a breaking ball four out of ten times.

Performance & Results

vs. RHB 598 0.323 4.37 17.1% 7.0% 36.1% 42.0% 21.8% 11.9%
vs. LHB 220 0.298 3.76 23.6% 6.8% 40.1% 42.2% 17.7% 11.3%

The story of the Orioles’ rotation is “small sample size,” as their starters in each of the first three games of the series only have one year of data to look at. Game One starter Jason Hammel completely changed his pitching style this season, and both Chen and Miguel Gonzalez (the Game Three starter) are first-year big leaguers. It sucks, but it is what it is. Anyway, opponents made sure to platoon their lineup against Chen and for good reason — he strikes righties out at a lesser rate than lefties while also generating fewer ground balls.

After carrying a 3.46 ERA (4.01 FIP) through his first 22 starts, Chen pitched to a 5.34 ERA (5.17 FIP) in his final ten starts of the season. That’s where the whole “hitting a wall” thing is coming from. He allowed at least five runs four times in those ten starts, and completed six full innings of work only five times. Right-handed batters tagged him for a .316/.356/.580 batting line with eleven homers in 192 plate appearances during that time, though the southpaw did hold fellow lefties in check (.220/.246/.356 in just 62 plate appearances). I assume Eduardo Nunez will get the start at DH over Raul Ibanez, and it goes without saying that the righties will have to carry the torch offensively against the Baltimore starter.

Four Yankees crack Baseball America's Top 20 Florida State League prospects list
Yankees designate Cory Wade for assignment
  • therizza

    Would be nice to have Mcgehee on the roster right about now… He’s 1 for 3 with a HR and 2BB against Chen.

  • therizza

    Or Steave Pearce… 2 for 4 with HR and 2RBI

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      Those are Lew Ford #’s!!

  • Eddard

    19-10 career playoff record vs 0-0. The kid has never pitched on a stage this big against a lineup this good now that it is healthy. He will wilt under the pressure, Andy will notch his 20th playoff victory and the Yanks will win 6-3.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’m starting to actually enjoy these predictions. You’re starting to sound, dare I say, Big Memberish, today?

    • CountryClub

      I worry about the long layoff for Pettitte. His location wasn’t sharp to begin with, hopefully it’s not worse after a 9 day layoff. You can say this about any team, but Balt especially appears to feast on mistakes over the middle of the plate.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Then again, look at how he returned from injury.

        When in doubt, bet on Andy Pettitte.

    • Chris

      Let’s hope you’re correct!

    • Chris

      Let’s hope you’re right

  • Yank The Frank

    This guy could be the guy who jump starts ARod. I feel an ABomb from ARod coming tonight.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Sure it’s not gas?

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      If he guesses right. His 1 HR and 1 xtra base hit in the last 2 months mean he is due to guess right so you may be right!

      • Yank The Frank

        But that’s only a guess.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    We’re going to beat this bastard (again) so badly tonight he’s going to have to change his name to Bruce.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Boom. Nicely done.

  • Matt B

    You know, for all of the concern over the need for a RHB (and don’t get me wrong, I’d like one, and believe that if they had known Jones would fall off the cliff he did, they would have upgraded, but with SSS caveats, as well as caveats about averages and medians, the Yanks starting lineup v. LHP is both more formidable and consistent than against RHP.

    Splits v. L
    Jeter 156 WRC+ (98 v. R)
    Suzuku 78 WRC+ (96 v. R)
    Atod 151 WRC+ (94 v. R)
    Cano 77 WRC+ (195 v. R)
    Swisher 114 WRC+ (134 v. R)
    Teix 128 WRC+ (107 v. R)
    Grandy 103 WRC+ (122 v. R)
    Martin 138 WRC+ (75 v. R)
    Nunez 131 WRC+ (Ibanez 114 v. R)

    Average WRC+ v. L: 121.5
    Median WRC+ v. L: 128
    Average WRC+ v. R: 115
    Median WRC+ v. R: 110

    Of course, these only apply to the starters and they won’t see equal plate appearances. But basically the whole lineup is lefty mashers, with the exception of Ichiro – and Cano having shown such an extreme split that he never has before and seemed on its way to correction toward the end of the year.

    • Matt B

      Really, really trying not to get work done today, as must be very obvious.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        And I thought I was procrastinating by looking up Mussina’s innings pitched in the previous thread….

        • Matt B

          Ha I am a fountain of random, not particularly useful pontificating on days like this. I like to think I’m an even keeled fan, but it makes me nervous that I feel good about tonight (and have felt good about the whole series). I actually think we’ll see a bit more offense than maybe anticipated.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Ha! I’m actually trying to catch up on the paperwork end of my job today, and that can get rather tedious.

            I always get strangely superstitious about jinxing by being overly-positive, but I’m pretty sure the team can’t actually hear me…..except for A-Rod, who seems to not fall for my reverse jinx attempts.

    • CountryClub

      You are right, they do well against lefties. But they were struggling when Arod and Teix were both banged up. That’s when teams started lining up lefties vs them. But now that everyone is back, the lineup looks deep again.

      • Matt B

        For sure. I also think that the productivity of Nick Swisher down the stretch is a greatly under-appreciated storyline. Cano killing the ball the last week and Ichiro’s great last month got a lot of play, but Swish day in, day out really, really helped them stay afloat. And my goodness, whether or not Teix is even productive, just having that extra switch hitter is transformative.

        You know, I love Alex Rodriguez. Always have defended him. Obviously his contract is atrocious, and he’s worth a fraction of its value at some point. And I know it’s not going to happen, and it probably shouldn’t. But the thought of platooning Chavez at third against righties is at least a little tempting.

        • CountryClub

          I’d be fine with that. As of right now, Chavez is a better hitter than Arod vs righties. I guess if he continues to struggle it’s possible Girardi does something like that late in the ALCS or WS (if the Yanks adavanced to either). But I doubt it. Hopefully, Arod gets hot and makes us eat our words.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      We have Jones’s replacement and he wears #13.

      Girardi just doesn’t know it yet.

      • Matt B

        Ha, look even as an Arod defender – I still think he’s a good player and what’s done is done with that contract – it’s a tremendous concern and he doesn’t belong in the three hole.

        Joe won’t sit him for Chavez and I probably wouldn’t either if I were him. But he’s a mess right now. Only real positive to draw is he is having good at bats and talking his walks. Which is nice. But when it’s the best you can say, yeah, no good.

        I still hold out some hope that Arod has some productive power years left, maybe as a full time DH (not that he plays a bad third, just wondering if the extra rest helps his productivity). But certainly less and less confident of it. Honestly, my problem isn’t even so much the homers, it’s the doubles. I’d gladly take sign up for .270/,365/.450 with gap power right now. Here’s hoping.

        I also don’t think he’s healthy for fwiw. Lord knows what the deal with his hip is, given that he never had the full surgery. Who knows how the wrist is feeling. The knee looks good, but in addition to being off the juice, dropping the weight to keep the pressure off the knees may have something to do with the power decline. Wonder if he comes back next year 15 lbs heavier.

        • Matt B

          “taking” his walks, grrr

        • CountryClub

          Girardi was on a team that benched Boggs for Hayes and Tino for Big Daddy. I’m not sure he’s be afraid to do it if things get ugly. But it wont be in the ALDS, that’s for sure.

          • Matt B

            Yeah, not sure he’d be afraid. I’m just not sure even I think it’s wise. Chavez has raked this year, but it’s a SSS – possibly if it’s a righty against whom Chavez has a particularly great history and Alex a particularly poor one. I’m pretty into splits, but at the same time, don’t want to read too too much into platoon advantages based on a year of data.

  • JohnC

    Have the start times for the rest of the series been announced yet?

    • nsalem

      They have decided to keep it a secret. The games in New York will not be announced until 30 minutes before actual game time.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Everyone will be allowed in the stadium at the same time, including the players. If you actually beat Jayson Nix to the clubhouse, you can be the 25th man on the roster.

        • JMK


    • CountryClub

      7:37 unless there are 2 sweeps. If so, 8:37.

  • Tony

    Chen put up a 2.28 ERA on six days’ rest this year. SSS, but wonder if that’s worth worrying about. I’d love to see DJ, A-Rod, and Russ Martin hit some balls hard tonight.

  • nsalem

    On paper this is a great match-up for the Yankees. In real life I hope it will be as easy as that, but I don’t think so.

    • Matt B

      yeah, as I was saying above, it makes me nervous that I really like the paper match up. I do think they’ll score tuns, though. They’ve seen him plenty, had some success, and he’s not a soft-tossing lefty who’ll just drop changes on the outside corner against righties, ala Milone. I do assume he’s on a short leash tonight, though, with Bal carrying 12 pitchers and the off day, Chen probably only needs to get through the lineup twice tops to have done his job.

      But we’ll see. I know Andy’s gonna battle, but I see Andy tonight as more 6.1, 3 ER, than 7 and 1 – which ought to be enough and here’s hoping.

  • mrdbag

    You know I’m disappointed De Paula did not get mentioned much this year his numbers were insane

  • Mick taylor

    People forget the yanks do not win the 2009Championship without arod.he not cc was the MVP of the postseason.ask acub fanif they would pay arod his moneyif he was the prime reason for a world championship and everyone forgets how much the team missed him
    In august . Even when he is not hitting home runs he is a huge presence in the lineup if he ishealthy and hits 30. Home runs and knocks in90 runs that is pretty good.

    • CountryClub

      Nobody forgets how good he was in 09. He was terrific. As was CC, Jeter, Pettitte and Mo. But this isnt 2009 and he’s struggling. I, for one, am not giving up on him. But I’m not ignoring the slump he’s been in either.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      I am not forgetting. I care more about the last few months. He has no power. He can’t turn on decent fbs. He is a total guess hitter.

      He plays on reputation and contract.


      • handtius

        Well, in the last few months….he played most of sept, was out all of august and some of july and before going on the disabled list with a broken hand, he was mashing. We’ve talked about it here. A broken hand is very hard to come back from, especially when you are a power hitter. It zaps the power. Yeah, this post season, he may not hit for much power, but going forward, he will. Not like 09 or before, but he’ll still hit for 30 homers or so.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      If Alex Rodriguez hits 30 home runs a season again, I…..almost said I’d drink my own piss, but let’s settle at my being extremely surprised.

      Not to regularly agree with stuart, but five more years of victory lap is going to seem like a long, long time some days.

      I actually think stuart’s finest moment on here was his referring to the smug look on Alex’s face after a called third strike for the next five years. It’s like a dagger to the stomach every time I now see that happen.


      • handtius

        I think he’s still eclipse 30 a few more times.

        • Sweet Dick Willie

          As much as I’d like you to be right, I think that ship has sailed.

          I’ll be content if he has 3 more years of 20.

          • Monterowasnotdinero

            It is not the lack of HR’s but the lack of driving the ball deep in the gaps. It is also the lack of bat speed and the guessing approach at the plate. He seems easy to pitch to now.

  • Mick taylor

    Didn’t Roger Maris lose his power after he broke his hand?

  • cr1

    There is very little point in dwelling on what any player’s performance was like three years ago, unless there are strong indications that that player has carried forward into the present whatever skill level he presented then, or you are doing a memoir about ‘back in the day’.

    But there is even less reason to exaggerate Al’s uselessness now. Far from being usless, he is a good situational hitter, a decent third baseman, and from anecdotal evidence has turned into a positive clubhouse presence. Many teams would be happy to acquire a player with that combination of strengths.

    What complaint do we have, really, other than the fact the NYY FO apparently imagined that he would remain a superstar until the end of a riduculously long and costly contract?

    Not his fault, and it is petty and meanspirited to behave towards him as if he defrauded us. Take him as he is, enjoy what he has to offer, and (pardon me while I scream) GET OVER the contract — not only is it stale news, but it can’t be fixed. Or if you can’t get over it, keep it for discussions of FO decision-making and forget it when discussing Al’s performance.