Nothing Wang with Chien-Ming

Chien-Ming Wang may not get many strikeouts, but could be a nice addition to your fantasy team.

Wang was limited to 95 innings last year thanks to an injury he sustained running the bases in 2008. The good news for the future is that Wang’s injury had nothing to do with pitching, making it less likely that Wang will experience injury issues in 2009. And, when healthy, Wang is an excellent pitcher.

Wang relies on a devastating 92 MPH sinker that allows him to induce ground balls on 60% of his balls in play in his career. Wang relies on his often-suspect infield defense (having Jeter and Cano fielding so many grounders can’t be good for your health, let alone your ERA), but keeps the ball in the ballpark: he’s allowed only 34 homers in 628 career innings.

Additionally, Wang has slowly increased the number of swinging strikes he’s induced. In his injury-shortened 2008 season, batters swung and missed at 7.2% of his pitches. In 2007 that number was 6.9%, and was 6.6% and 5.2% in 2006 and 2005, respectively. Wang’s strikeout rate has slowly increased as well: last year he struck out 5.12 batters per nine, after getting 4.70 Ks per nine in 2006 and less than 4 per nine in 2006 and 2005. This is not a high rate, but Wang induces so many grounders that he doesn’t need to strike many hitters out.

And although strikeouts are a category in fantasy, Wang still may not be appropriately valued in your fantasy league. Subjectively, it appears that Wang’s secondary pitches – especially his slider – have improved, and the numbers back this up, as Wang has consistently struck out more batters. If he pitches 200 innings with 5.5 strikeouts per nine next year, he’ll accumulate 122 strikeouts. Wang is likely to keep his ERA under four – perhaps even 3.50 or under – and should rack up the wins thanks to a solid (if somewhat overrated) offense. There’s a lot of fantasy value in a pitcher like that – especially a rather low-risk pitcher like Wang – even if he doesn’t strike out a batter every inning.

Wang is not a fantasy ace, but should an excellent member of your team, especially if you can draft him in the late middle rounds.




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6 Responses to “Nothing Wang with Chien-Ming”

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  1. Paul Singman says:

    Peter, Wang certainly does have a great career GB%, but when I look at his seasonal percentages, I find a concerning trend. Every year since he’s came to MLB his ground ball percentage has gone down, and in 2008 it was 9 percentage points lower than it was in 2005.

    I have no idea if this trend will continue but I am a bit hesitant to say nothing is “wang” with Wang.

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    • Peter says:

      Paul:

      I think Wang’s lowered GB% can be directly traced to the fact that he’s thrown more sliders every year since first coming to the majors (at the expense of a changeup, it appears). However, I think that the rise in sliders is also directly correlated to a rise in strikeouts. In other words, it appears that Wang is foregoing some grounders in exchange for increased strikeouts. That seems like a worthwhile tradeoff, especially considering Wang still induced a lot of grounders in 2008.

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  2. Sean says:

    “(having Jeter and Cano fielding so many grounders can’t be good for your health, let alone your ERA)”

    I agree that Jeter with only a few exceptions over his career is a minus defender. However, I disagree on Cano. From 2006 through Wang’s injury this past June, Cano probably saved Wang runs. He was bad his rookie year but improved immensely to a +8.1 UZR last year. This year was a Jekyll and Hyde type of season defensively (http://www.replacementlevel.com/index.php/RLYW/direct/why_did_the_2008_yankees_disappointdefense_edition). Cano looked like he’d gotten even better defensively over the first 3 months. I don’t know what his UZR was in mid-July but his ZR was .865, a 19 pts better than ’07. Then for about a month and a half/two months he was just dreadful, and looked like a completely different defender. Then in Sept he turned back into a very good defender again.

    Maybe that bad stretch was just a reversion to mean and Cano truly isn’t capable of an .850 ZR or a +8 UZR, but since he was playing at that level for about a season and a half, I doubt it was a fluke.

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    • Peter says:

      Sean:

      You make a very good point – Cano’s defensive statistics are everywhere, and it’s hard to tell who the real Cano is. The jury is out, and I think next season will be an important test to determine just how good (or bad) a defender he is.

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      • Matt says:

        Everything about Cano is all over the place… But he has the potential to be a very productive player in the future, and I think this past year, and all the criticism really taught Robinson a lesson. Let’s hope that he goes back to his 2006-07 days.

        Also, Wang should reach that 20-win plateau that had eluded him for the past few seasons. He’s that good.

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      • Jim says:

        Getting 20 wins doesn’t really have anything to do with how good of a pitcher he is….and maybe Cano is just a streaky player. His value is mostly average based, so he is basically prisoner to the whims of his BABIP from year to year.

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