Is Wang The Real Deal? Yanks-Tribe Gamer I

Larry Mahnken at Replacement Level Yankees offers this about Chien-Ming Wang, tonight’s starter:

"I’m still not sold on Wang, though I ain’t complaining. I wouldn’t trade him for someone as good as he’s pitching so far, but if it takes Wang to get a good player, I’d do it. He’ll never be a more valuable commodity than he is now. He’s basically to pitching what Alfonso Soriano is to hitting."

I respect  Mahnken’s opinion on matters concerning baseball a lot, and I think he might very well be right about Wang (if, in fact, I’m understanding his point). Wang has been good, but there’s a good chance that he’s not as good as his numbers make him seem. A number of statheads think Alfonso Soriano is baseball’s most overrated player because his gaudy numbers hide the fact that he’s bad at taking a walk, that when he’s going good he’s benefiting a good deal from luck. Likewise, is Wang, who rarely strikes out batters, benefiting from luck? He gets a number of batters to hit balls into play that seem to be finding their way into fielder’s gloves. How much control does he have over the result?

Wang began the year decently and then looked miserable for a couple of weeks. Since early June, however, he’s seemed to have found himself, logging 5 straight starts where he’s gone 7 innings or more. And still, he strikes out no one. Is this just a run of good luck, and when do we know whether Wang is the real deal of not? Tonight he faces Cleveland rookie Jeremy Sowers who did not pitch well in his debut. Here’s to another good start by Chien-Ming, and here’s to the good Wang being the real Wang. Comment here.

44 comments… add one
  • What would be the win total for the pitching equivilent of Soriano? 20 crappy looking wins? Say, 20-7 with an era of 4.85? At this point, that might not seem so bad. Wait a minute, isn’t that Johnson’s projection for this year?

    Tom sf July 3, 2006, 6:17 pm
  • seems similar to what Beckett’s projected to do. Hmmm.
    Actually, I think it would be more along the lines of someone with a low ERA, low k-rate and an unusually low Balls in playing batting average against. 2005 Chacon comes to mind.

    Nick July 3, 2006, 6:23 pm
  • I think Mahnken is way off base here, and is illustrating the weakness of an analysis that is so enamored with its own infallibility that it fails to adjust for reality. When stats aren’t reflecting what’s happening on the field, consistently, then there’s a problem with the statistician. And so we come to Wang, who has been a well-above-average pitcher for the Yanks over 2 seasons. He might not fit into the model that certain sabermetricians favor in a pitcher (hi k/9in rates, etc), but he’s such an extreme ground-ball pitcher that you have to wonder whether he will always be an anomaly. And as we learned from Moneyball, the key in baseball is to find and exploit an under-valued commodity. Ironically, it appears Wang may be undervalued by just the same community of statistical analysts that book celebrates. Mahnken claims Wang is performing at a level that has inflated his true value. But the opposite might just as well be the case.

    YF July 3, 2006, 6:35 pm
  • I agree that Wang is probably at his peak w/r/t trade value, but I don’t think the Yankees are in a position to get rid of a steady starting pitcher with good AL experience. Lucky or not, he’s one of the only guys on their staff to get dependable results this season. Does aanyone want to trade that for, (just for kicks) Livan Hernandez?

    airk July 3, 2006, 6:45 pm
  • Unfortunately it hasn’t been as long as 2 seasons of success for Wang. Wang pitched for about a little over half a season last year, and we’re of course only half a season into 2006.
    Still, it’s an interesting point you make about the potential that a pitcher like Wang might be undervalued by the stathead community. Other pitchers with lower than normal k-rates who have been successful also do not fit into the stathead ideal. I’m thinking specifically of Beuhrle and Glavine. Conversely, a pitcher with good k-rates might be overvalued byu the stathead community. Many people thought Clement was a great signing on the Sox’s part due to his above average peripherals. It doesn’t look so hot now.

    Nick-YF July 3, 2006, 6:45 pm
  • I am fully onboard with Clement for Wang, straight up. ;)

    airk July 3, 2006, 6:55 pm
  • Nice start for Damon. Single to the left side.

    YF July 3, 2006, 7:07 pm
  • I understand it’s only been 1 cumulative season, Nick, but it has come over 2 campaigns, which argues strongly against it being a fluke, in my mind. He reminds me, more than anyone, of Andy Pettitte, also an extreme ground-ball pitcher who was prone to slump now and again. Wang may never be as good as Pettitte, but to me he’s a similar study. Why on earth you’d consider trading him is beyond me. The Yanks need more Wangs, not fewer.

    YF July 3, 2006, 7:12 pm
  • Meanwhile, Giambi send a signal to Ozzie Guillen. 2-0.

    YF July 3, 2006, 7:13 pm
  • I once sent an email to Rob Neyer (a stathead if ever there was one) about this, and he conceded that Wangs groundball to flyball ratio is so high that his low K rate may not be so important. Groundballs are one of the most consistent pitching stats, so if this really is Wang’s future, then I think we can depend on him for the next few years as a reliable no3.

    Sam July 3, 2006, 7:18 pm
  • And how about that. Wang starts off with a deep fly out to center.

    YF July 3, 2006, 7:19 pm
  • And now Belliard walks. Not Wang’s scripted start.

    YF July 3, 2006, 7:21 pm
  • Wang out of the first, after a walk, a single, and a couple of balls smoked to the outfield. We’ll take that, and hope he settles down.

    YF July 3, 2006, 7:26 pm
  • Beauty of 1-4-3 DP. Nice.

    YF July 3, 2006, 7:37 pm
  • And Nick Green puts down Hollandsworth. Looks like Wang has found his gb rhythym.

    YF July 3, 2006, 7:38 pm
  • Wang’s not pitching great. but he isn’t getting the breaks either. Martinez should be out on the contact with the third base coach.

    walein July 3, 2006, 8:11 pm
  • Agreed Walein. And Melky had misplayed that previous ball as well, before missing the cutoff.

    YF July 3, 2006, 8:34 pm
  • Well, Wang is finished for the night. Sowers is cruising thru the Yankee lineup.

    walein July 3, 2006, 9:17 pm
  • Myers comes in and strikes out Sizemore and gets Belliard to ground out. Very well done Myers.
    C’mon Yankee bats…let’s wake the bleep up!

    walein July 3, 2006, 9:23 pm
  • Giambi hits into the DP in the top of eight as Boone, playing short on the shift, tosses 5-4-3 to put the yankees 4 outs away from the end. ARod up.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 9:51 pm
  • Actually it was 563.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 9:51 pm
  • ARod, down 0-2, chases a curve ball low and away to end the top of the eighth.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 9:52 pm
  • Smith is up on Hollandsworth, 1-2 to start the bottom of eight. Wickman is up in the pen for the Tribe.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 9:55 pm
  • Hollandsworth pops out to shallow left center for out number one. Gutierrez up.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 9:56 pm
  • Smith feeds a ball to Gutierrez, then loops in a curve for a called strike. 1-1: outside ball 2.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 9:57 pm
  • The 2-1 from Smith is a fastball just inside. Looked good to me. 3-1. Smith brings a fastball popped back and out of play behind the 3rd base dugout.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 9:58 pm
  • The payoff pitch: Gutierrez pops out to shallow right as Bernie settles under it for the second out.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 9:58 pm
  • Torre and Gator commune on the bench. Joe looks huge next to Guidry. Sizemore flails at the first pitch for strike one.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 9:59 pm
  • Smith comes high and outside for ball one. The 1-1 from Smith: high fastball that Sizemore swings underneath for strike two. The 1-2: breaking pitch fouled back off the left side.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:00 pm
  • Sizemore looks at a pitch away to make it 2-2. Deuces: great pitch. Change high in the zone to retire Sizemore swinging.
    Top of the ninth will see Wickman facing Williams, Phillips and Cabrera, with Stinnett and Green coming up for the win (hopefully…)

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:02 pm
  • Bernie looks at strike one to lead off the top of the ninth, then takes a curve outside for ball one. Wickman feeds a low strike to make it 1-2. Bernie takes a little time setting up for the 1-2. It’s a curve in the dirt to make it even at deuces.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:05 pm
  • The 2-2: changeup pulled foul on the ground up first. Reset the deuces: Wickman comes with a high fastball that Bernie tips back.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:06 pm
  • Bernie steps in to face 2-2 again. Hanging breaking pitch roped to right for a single. Nice piece of hitting by Bernie.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:07 pm
  • Andy Phillips steps in. Swings at the first pitch, a fastball low, and lifts it for a pop out to right field. One away.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:08 pm
  • Cabrera takes a ball low and away. 1-0: Fastball outside for 2-0. Melky takes ball three, and then a low strike 3-1. Wickman walks Cabrera on a pitch inside and in the dirt. Wickman hurt his ankle stepping off the mound. Looks like he is okay to stay in there.
    Posada will pinch for Stinnett, and represents the tying run with one out, two on in the top of nine.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:11 pm
  • Posada is 18 for 79 as a pinch in his career.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:12 pm
  • Wickman feeds Posada a fastball in the dirt for ball one.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:12 pm
  • The 1-0: Broussard bobbles an easy play that should have been a 343 dp. Instead, he has to run to the bag to force Posada. Second and third, two outs to Keving Reese(!!!)

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:13 pm
  • Wickman is low and inside for ball one. Low on the outside for ball two. The 2-0 is way low but called a strike. HORRIBLE call.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:15 pm
  • It’s now 2-2 after a foul. BAD call on that strike.. Reese makes a good defensive swing on a deuce to stay alive.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:16 pm
  • Comebacker ends the game. Tribe wins, 5-2. Nice play by Wickman to field and throw for the big man who looks like a beer-league softball home run king.
    I’m pissed about that 2-0 strike.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:17 pm
  • Achh. That was a terrible call. Oh well. There’s always tomorrow.

    YF July 3, 2006, 10:17 pm
  • Aaaaaron Frrrrrricckkinggg Booooooooone! Great defense from the hot corner killed several potential hits for NY tonight.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:21 pm
  • First game of which I get to see more than three innings in the past week is a loss. Bummer.

    attackgerbil July 3, 2006, 10:22 pm

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