POTD Chien-Ming Wang

=== Stealth Signings ===

Question arose, could the M's be the mystery team supposedly about to land Wang.

If that were the case, we'd all find out about it simultaneously.  :- )  Which is what I love about this Royal Brougham crew...   hey, lemme sneak a digression in here second paragraph.  Thath high-quality H20 writin', ain't it...

Shawn Kelley was asked on the radio last month, do you guys find out about all these signings before we do?  To which Kelley responded, probably later.  We find out about it on MLB.com or ESPN.com and you guys are local.  

There's also the fact that players need to decompress from the 24/7 pressure cooker that fricasees their brains on the shell, for 8-9 months a year.  Eric Byrnes was talking on the radio about why he came to Seattle... he needed (1) an opportunity to win and (2) an opportunity to help the team.... 

"Hey, let's say I could go to the Yankees, that's fine, but if I'm not going to play, then what's the point... the M's were the best fit for those two things."

"We got into the negotiations and I checked around and I saw they'd signed Chone Figgins.  I'm goin', all right!  Now we're talkin'!"

"Then I looked some more and I go, WHAT?  WE GOT CLIFF LEE THIS WINTER?  Man, we could win a ton of games!"   General laughter on the show.


=== Chien-Ming Wang ===

In the early 1990's, we well remember Scott Erickson throwing three excellent seasons fresh up from the minors... well, two-three seasons.   People were riding Bill James about the way Erickson was blowing James' absolute strikeout principle, that all stars in the rotation strike out more men than the league average.

I mean, in his second season Erickson was 20-8 with a super low ERA, and his third season excellent too... Erickson was deathly feared everywhere around the league.  Stories from Minnesota, "one thing everybody in this clubhouse knows, do NOT talk to Scott on the day before he pitches.  The guy is just a rabid Doberman when it comes time to pitch...."  stuff like that.

Erickson came out there with a fearsome glare, smoking 92-94 swerveballs in that seemed impossible to hit.

James didn't back down.  This guy will not sustain success.  You do not sustain success on four strikeouts per game.

Erickson's next four ERA's:  5.19, 5.44, 4.81, 5.95.   These guys come up, hit the league with super-high groundball ratios and super-low strikeout rates... they can last one year, maybe two, perhaps three.  No way they sustain it.

Same applies to Jo-El's new swerveball.  He'll probably be good THIS year.


=== Dr's R/X Dept. ===

Some other roto team might go ahead and chase the glory of Wang's first three years.  It will not be mine.


Dr D



If the Mariners sign Wang...it will make me nervous.  I will be cautiously optimistically hoping that "Bling Blang Blong" (as I call him to be funny) can stagger his way through a 4.50 ERA season because of the great defense behind him, but every start he makes will make me nervous.  Give me one good reason Wang is better than Carlos Silva.  Granted, more grounders than Silva, but much MUCH worse control.


We all know that pitchers like Wang are doomed to failure sooner, rather than later...but how do you know when the wall is approaching and you should eject?  The logical thing to do, as a hitter, when facing Wang or Erickson or Pinata is to force them to get the ball up.  Most of their swerveballs are going to miss low and out of the zone - they have to nibble to win - so if you just patiently take a whole bunch of pitches and only swing when you get a read on the movement and think it will be at least thigh high...you should be able to work up his pitch count and crack some dingers too.  So what would that look like statistically?  How would we know when the pitcher has been booked by the league?
How about pitches/PA?
Eeeeh...logical, but a look at Erickson's P/PA summary suggests that although the ratio went up subtly from 3.48 in his first three years to aroud 3.60 thereafter, the difference was small.
I want to steer clear or BABIP because that can be misleading on a season to season basis and we're trying to use one season or even a partial sesaon to predict the future.  How about GB/FB?
Hm...now I'm confused...Erickson's GF/FB actually went way UP when he started sucking.  Interesting.
LD% makes sense (and clearly increases as Erickosn gets worse), but that is extremely volatile year to year.
Any ideas?

misterjonez's picture

First, good question.  Second, no idea how to answer it, but I have a couple quick ideas that might (or might not) point in the right direction.
I know the data isn't available for historical reference to guys from yesteryear, but I Would imagine that O-Swing% on Fangraphs would give some sort of indication that hitters are, as you suggested, forcing the pitcher to come 'up' in the zone.  O-Swing% ought to be high in a pre-cliffjumping version of Wang, and come down a few points when the league figures out collectively that they aren't throwing anything but a low sinker.
LD% and HR/FB don't seem to be all that predictive due to volatility (as you say), but I'm certainly not an expert.  If we had an outbound radar gun in all stadiums, that would probably give you some of the indication you'd need.  Just cross-reference the outbound velocity on groundballs and you'd immediately see the trend indicating that hitters are waiting for a more hittable pitch and wrecking it when they get it.  Of course, trajectory also comes into play on GB's...
I dunno, Matt.  My best idea I suppose would be a comparative analysis of BABIP for a pitcher COMPARED TO ALL OTHER GB's thrown by his teammates for that same year.  That would probably tell you the trend, but I'm pretty sure the data isn't broken out like that anywhere yet.


Wang's O-Swing% is rising...not falling.  It started out around 18% and is now at 24%.
Wang, however, does show the dropping GB/FB and rising LD% trends I expected to see in Erickson's numbers.  Hm.

misterjonez's picture

Do you think it's an increase in swinging at pitches falling below the knees, or pitches on/outside the edges of the strikezone?

misterjonez's picture

Reaching for pitches in/out (mostly out, I would assume) results in better hit balls than swinging at sinkers below the knees?

misterjonez's picture

that I would imagine as players 'book' a pitcher as being a one-pitch, pound-the-knees-and-below sinkerballer, the reaction will be to lay off anything at-or-below-the-knees and start looking for the ball up, even if they have to reach for it, to negate much of the vertical break.
Could just be fuzzy thinking, but it makes sense in my head at least.


cause am on the fly...
James' thing would be, if a young pitcher hits the league without K's, he wants to see their K's increase -- at least a little bit, from Y1 to Y2 to Y3 to Y4.
K% across the first 5 years would be James' first thought.  y'think?
Now that you mention, Wang does pass this criterion, so if his shoulder bounces back, maybe he's a better gamble than I sold him above.  Dunno.

OBF's picture

As the league books a guy as being always around the knees / ground ball type of pitcher instead of batters thinking, "Fine, I will wait you out until you start bringing the ball up in the zone".  Which they probably realize might not work because those pitchers WONT bring the ball up (why would they?  Especially if they are established guys and the umps are giving them the low strike anyways, like Wang always gets).  Maybe instead they think, " You wanna play it that way?  All right I will just bring out the Branyan Golf Swing and see how you like giving up four bases at a time!".  Which would result in the increased O-Swing% and ground balls.  Also maybe batters book him and think, "You want a ground ball I'll give you a ground ball"  instead of going away from what the pitcher is trying to do they go with it and get a screaming "ground Ball" up the middle that only bounces once and never gets more than 3 ft. off the ground.  Which also brings up the selection bias of the scorers.  They see Wang on the mound and think, "Here is a GB pitcher" and so they of course score anything close as a ground ball instead of a LD.  Which probably makes GB % of established GB guys kind of useless.

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