Friday, January 22, 2010
What Happened to Wang?
It’s looking more and more likely that Chien-Ming Wang’s time with the Yankees is over, with the St. Louis Cardinals currently rumored as the most likely landing place for the potentially former Yankee. Over at the Lohud Yankee blog last week, a guest post by Greg Mathews looked at Wang and laid out a theory that batters started to lay off Wang’s low sinker and that it was indicative of a trend that may mean his effectiveness will suffer unless he makes an adjustment. Trying to see if letting Wang go is a mistake and being on Pitch F/X kick lately I figured I’d look at the data to see if there was any truth to this theory.
Since Pitch F/X has only been around since 2007 and was not completely rolled out until 2008, we don’t have data from Wang’s best season of 2006, and 2007 data is incomplete, which kind of limits how much we can infer from the data we do have given his missed time in 2008 and his very abbreviated 2009, so keep that in mind when looking at the numbers that follow.Wang's sinker causes classification issues in Pitch F/X, so I'm looking at any pitch classified as either a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball or sinker for the years 2007-2009. I'm only looking at pitches I'd classify as low, which means they crossed the plate somewhere below the lower third of the strike zone as identified for the specific batter.
And here are the numbers.
|Year||#||max||min||avg||ball %||stkS%||foul%||stkC%||In play, out(s)%||In play, no out %||HBP %||break_y||break_angle||break_length|
#: number of times pitch was thrown as recorded in Pitch F/X
max: highest recorded starting velocity
min: lowest recorded starting velocity
avg: average recorded starting velocity
ball %: percentage of time pitch was taken for a ball
stkS%: percentage of time pitch was swung on and missed
foul%: percentage of time pitch was fouled off
stkC%: percentage of time pitch was taken for a called strike
In play, out(s)%: percentage of time pitch was hit into play for an out(s)
In play, no out%: percentage of time pitch was hit into play and not converted into an out
HBP%: percentage of time batter was hit by pitch
break_y: the y-distance from home plate where the maximum deviation occurs(definition taken from this site
break_angle: the direction of the deviation, with the convention that a pitch that breaks away from or toward a RHH has a negative or positive angle, respectively;
break_length: the largest deviation, in inches, of the actual from the straight-line trajectory.
The incompleteness of the data limits whatever conclusions we may want to draw from this, but it doesn't really look like hitters were laying off Wang's low fastballs with any greater frequency. If anything, they were swinging at more of them if you look at the skS%. The big thing I see is they just hit fewer of them into outs, which could just be a BABIP issue or could be indicative of Wang's pitches being more hittable, although the velocity and break data is generally similar across all three years.
I'm kind of bummed that Wang's likely gone, but at the same time I don't think I'd expect him to pitch any better than any of the current members of the Yankee rotation in 2010, including either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. I'd guess if the Yankees disagreed with me, he wouldn't be on his way to becoming a former Yankee. Either way, I wish him well, as long as he doesn't wind up on Boston or Tampa Bay. Or Anaheim. Or Seattle maybe.
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