Chien-Ming Wang Is 35, and 27

There were 13 pitchers who appeared in a Monday afternoon spring-training contest between the White Sox and the Royals. The game took place in one of the few ST venues equipped with PITCHf/x, and to no one’s surprise, the fastest average fastball on the day was thrown by Yordano Ventura. Showing up in second place was one Brandon Brennan, and then in third place, you find Chien-Ming Wang. Just in case you’re wondering, no, there is not a second Chien-Ming Wang. This is not, like, the son of the original Chien-Ming Wang. This is the original Chien-Ming Wang, throwing harder than Daniel Webb. He threw harder than Joakim Soria. He threw harder than Carson Fulmer.

It’s one appearance, and it’s March. Wang worked out of the bullpen, as opposed to being a starter. It’s not like we get to just turn the clock back 10 years, but here’s something Wang said after the game:

If we wanted to turn the clock back 10 years, we’d insist on Wang re-discovering old velocity levels. Now he has. Now we have proof. Chien-Ming Wang was once a hell of a Yankee, and though you might’ve forgotten about him, he never forgot about his success.

Wang never went away entirely. He dropped off of the major-league radar, last appearing in 2013, but two years ago, he was a regular starter in Triple-A, and again last year, he remained a regular starter in Triple-A. He was a proven veteran one level below where he wanted to be, but it’s not like he had to throw in any indy leagues. Yet, let me excerpt a stretch of Rotoworld blurbs:

  • RHP Chien Ming Wang opted out of his contract with the Reds.
  • White Sox signed RHP Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league contract; assigned him to Triple-A Charlotte.
  • Braves signed RHP Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
  • Chien-Ming Wang pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Cardinals in a no-decision Sunday.
  • Braves re-assigned RHP Chien-Ming Wang to minor league camp.
  • Braves released RHP Chien-Ming Wang.
  • Mariners signed RHP Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league contract.
  • Royals signed RHP Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league contract.

That one game line in there took place in spring training. Wang bounced around, as a once-proven entity without his best sinker. I don’t think anyone paid much attention when Wang recently turned up with the Royals, given where he’s been and given his age, but Wang, it seems, has his velocity back. The tweet embedded above names one Ron Wolforth. This is a picture of Wang and Wolforth. It’s a familiar-sounding name, and that’s because Wolforth is the guy who’s been credited with repairing Scott Kazmir.

To be fair, Kazmir is an N of 1. Just last season, we were talking about how Wolforth might’ve helped Barry Zito re-gain his velocity, and that didn’t really happen. But where these can be fun stories to think about in January and February, situations get more real in March. There are more eyes and radar guns in March. Zito didn’t actually get back to the high-80s. Here’s Wang, legitimately working again in the low- to mid-90s. That’s unlikely to be a freak accident.

I’m not here to discuss the merits of Wolforth’s program. I don’t know everything that he does, and I certainly don’t know everything that he did with Wang, but the results for Wang are all that matter. He went to Wolforth and now he’s a stronger pitcher, and by the video, he looks the same as he used to:

There’s maybe a distinction between new velocity and re-gained velocity. It’s not like Wang never threw 94-95 before. That’s what he had, then injuries took their toll, and the speed of the sinker slipped. Wang sustained a foot injury in 2008 that apparently altered his mechanics, and then in 2009 he needed significant surgery on his shoulder. By our numbers, Wang’s average fastball in 2006 was 93.1 miles per hour. Come 2013, it was down to 89.9. Wang says last year’s fastball was even slower. That’s what makes this newer news meaningful — we already know what Wang has been able to do in the majors with his sinker where he wants it.

A table of Wang’s major-league career:

Chien-Ming Wang, in the Majors
Split IP ERA- FIP- xFIP- GB% Hard% Fastball
2005 – 2008 628.2 85 88 94 61% 25% 92.5
2009 – 2013 163.2 159 127 112 54% 31% 90.9

Wang was always a ground-ball guy, but with the better sinker, he was an awful lot more effective. He got more grounders, he did a better job of avoiding sharp contact, and in the end he was a good deal better than your average starting pitcher. On the other side of the injuries, when the mechanics went and then the sinker went too, Wang got brutalized. Consider that, the first four years, Wang allowed an OPS of .685. After that, he allowed an OPS of .900. Wang went wrong. This is the first indication we have that he could be back on track.

I recognize how silly it is to be talking about the career peak of Chien-Ming Wang. It was a decade ago. When Wang finished second in American League Cy Young voting, that was the same season that Hanley Ramirez was the National League Rookie of the Year. Just speaking honestly, players don’t get back to being what they were 10 years earlier. Bodies simply don’t work the same. With pitchers, however, the biggest reason is because stuff declines. So what do you do when you have a pitcher whose stuff has bounced back? Just how cautious should we be with Wang, who was a starter last season, and who’s throwing in the 90s again?

By nature I’m an analytical optimist, and in March it’s probably even worse. For players, I prefer to see the upsides, and I know that’s what I’m doing here. I don’t know what role Wang might fill with the Royals; I don’t know if he’s going to get the chance to fill any role. He’s not young, and he hasn’t been good for a very long time. Chien-Ming Wang isn’t what he was in his 20s. Yet at the core, all Wang needs is his good sinker. There’s compelling evidence that Wang once again possesses his good sinker. Sometimes baseball can be that simple.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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bpd
Member
bpd
2 months 14 days ago

As a guy who really liked watching wang pitch(the game moved so fast!) This pleases me.

One interesting thing to consider is that Wang always had the sinker and basically only the sinker. It’s all he needed.

Wang with a 93 mph sinker is probably a major league pitcher and that’s good enough for me.

Dave Stewart
Member
2 months 14 days ago

35 and 27 is a winning record. 8 games over .500, which is great for an innings eater like him.

Cheeseball
Member
Member
Cheeseball
2 months 14 days ago

This is delightful!

MajesticOwl
Member
MajesticOwl
2 months 14 days ago

This was a really good article up until “Wang went wrong.”

We get it. “Wang” and “wrong” sound similar. Har har har.

It would be really nice if everyone would agree to stop with the juvenile jokes about how *hilarious* Asian names are and how they sometimes sound like other words in English. It’s easy to overlook that sort of thing if you’re white, so it can seem really innocent, but if you’re Asian, and you see that kind of thing all the time, it gets old. Combine it with all of the other subtle and sometimes less-than-subtle jabs that Asians have to take, and it can have a nasty effect on a person.

Basically, it’s rude, and it takes virtually zero effort to stop, so consider cutting those kinds of jokes out.

And no, it’s not the same as rhyming a word with a white person’s name, because there’s no history of that sort of thing being used as a racist trope against white people.

Gluten-Free AEC
Member
Gluten-Free AEC
2 months 14 days ago

Oh yeah. He should have just stuck to less offensive stuff, like “I’m looking forward to a Dickey-Wang matchup”

heroldc2
Member
heroldc2
2 months 14 days ago

so MajesticOwl – I’m guessing you’re really fun at parties?

Jeff Luhnow
Member
Jeff Luhnow
2 months 14 days ago

How does “Wang” and “wrong” sound similar?

JakeT
Member
JakeT
2 months 14 days ago

According to wiki, the Pinyin and Cantonese pronounciations are “Wáng” and “Wong”, respectively, so “Wang” doesn’t actually rhyme with the words “sang”, “bang”, “fang”, etc.

pitnick
Member
pitnick
2 months 14 days ago

This is basically right, although Pinyin is just one of the romanizations of Chinese, not a language itself. Mandarin is the most common Chinese language, which I think is what you’re indicating with your Wáng (or Wahng). But right, when Chinese speakers hear Americans use the hard “a” of fang or bang (not just for Wang, but for almost any Chinese word with an a in it) it hits the ears like Brad Pitt saying Nazi in Inglourious Basterds.

JakeT
Member
JakeT
2 months 14 days ago

It’s sports, we make fun of EVERYONE’s names (cf. the Royals’ first base coach, and a certain recently signed Astros pitcher). The notion that any race should be exempt from this due to “other jabs” is absurd. You’re literally being treated as equals.

For your personal health, please refrain from reading Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

Also, as an Asian, I would like to ask that you do not make generalizing statements about how badly these jokes affect us. You seem to have grievances that go beyond the scope of a one-liner on a Fangraphs article, perhaps you should be venting your frustrations elsewhere.

ColinBaseball
Member
ColinBaseball
2 months 14 days ago

A Roald Dahl reference on Fangraphs? Never thought I’d see that!

BigChief
Member
Member
BigChief
2 months 14 days ago

Don’t forget about LJ Hoes, who was recently traded for cash.

Also, this.
http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2011/1/27/1944077/best-baseball-player-names-hall-of-fame

Jeff Luhnow
Member
Jeff Luhnow
2 months 14 days ago

This was a really good article up until “Wang bounced around.”

We get it. “Wang bounced around” sounds risque. Har har har.

It would be really nice if everyone would agree to stop with the juvenile jokes about how parts of the anatomy are and how they sometimes sound like other people’s names. It’s easy to overlook that sort of thing if you’re white, because those parts of your anatomy aren’t a big deal, but if you’re hung, and you see that kind of thing all the time, it gets old. Combine it with all of the other subtle and sometimes less-than-subtle jabs that Manny Pacquiao have to take, and it can have a nasty effect on a person.

Basically, it’s crude, and it takes virtually zero effort to stop, so consider cutting those kinds of jokes out.

And no, it’s not the same as rhyming your user name with a white person’s name, because there’s no history of that sort of thing being used as a racist trope against poorly-endowed whiteys.

Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
Member
Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
2 months 14 days ago

Ovos is a very good product, “Vang”.

We do not get. “Great Britain” seems risky. Hahaha.

It would be nice if everyone agrees to stop laughing as teenagers are part of the anatomy and how sometimes it seems that in the name of another person. It’s easy to forget these things, if they are white, because authority is not a big deal, but if you’re stuck and you see all these things, it is obsolete. Combined with all the subtle images and sometimes less subtle Pakuiao had to go to another, and can have a powerful effect on people.

Basically, it’s rude, and it takes almost no effort to stop because they reduce them.

No, it’s not like rhyme and user name is the name of the white people, because there is a history of such things, be used as a prototype of all racist crimes against good with white.

Jeff Luhnow
Member
Jeff Luhnow
2 months 14 days ago

Ovos very good product, “Wang”.

To put it. “Great Britain” seems risky. Hahaha.

Fine, if everyone agrees that the establishment of laughter as a body part for teenagers, and sometimes it seems that other person acting on his behalf. It’s easy to forget these things, as if white, because the authority is a big deal, but if you get stuck, and these things. large pictures, and sometimes less Pakuiao right to another, and a powerful effect on people.

Essentially yet, and you almost no effort to stop because of decreases.

No, not like jingles and a user called white people because of the history of these things can be used as a prototype for crimes against the white race is good.

Jeff Luhnow
Member
Jeff Luhnow
2 months 14 days ago

Vose very good product, “Wang”.

For this purpose. “Great Britain” seems risky. Hahaha.

Well, every part of the body of a young man to know, and sometimes appears in the name of another person, if you agree. The body as white as a problem, these things are easy to forget, but you get stuck, and it is. great photos, and a powerful influence on the people and the rights of each other, Pakuiao sometimes a bit.

Primarily, and almost no effort to stop, because it reduces.

No, Jingles and may as an example of crimes against whites can be the best, because of the history of these things are not like white people.

HarryLives
Member
HarryLives
2 months 14 days ago

Argh. I once made a dick joke about B.J. Upton facing Chien Ming Wang. I must be some sort of super racist.

rounders
Member
rounders
2 months 14 days ago

There is BJ Wang playing baseball somewhere in Taiwan. But axe any Cardinals fan, two Wangs don’t make a Wong.

Social Justice Warriors don’t exist in baseball–at the playing level. Sportswriters opened that door, because they are SJW. Those that can, play, those that can’t, make shit up.

JakeT
Member
JakeT
2 months 13 days ago

Saturday, April 12, 2003, Bottom 7th: B.J. relieves Johnson

http://www.fangraphs.com/plays.aspx?date=2003-04-12&team=Orioles&dh=0

I’m such a racist too.

bbdawgrex
Member
bbdawgrex
2 months 14 days ago

Social justice one two three (woo woo)
I wanna be PC (woo woo)
It’s just the way to be for me
And you (woo woo)
Your hateful slurs are through (woo woo)
I call woo woo on you (woo woo)
We’ll fight until you’re PC black and blue (woo woo)

– PC Principal

Antonio Bananas
Member
Member
Antonio Bananas
2 months 14 days ago

*until you’re African American and blue*

gnomez
Member
gnomez
2 months 14 days ago

Is it possible there’s some noise in the velocity data? I don’t know anything qualitative about Brandon Brennan, but he had a 15% strikeout rate last year in A-ball, something which doesn’t scream “high velocity.”

Jorge Posada
Member
2 months 14 days ago

I’m rooting for him to make it all the way back to the top. Like I did.

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