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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.