August 04, 2006
Connors To Thank For Worm Killer?
From Newsday -
That Chien-Ming Wang has become a rock atop the Yankees' rotation is not surprising to team officials. That's what they paid about $2 million for in May 2000.
But the way he's doing it - with a nasty sinker - could not have been predicted by any team official then.
When the Yankees beat out the Braves and Rockies to sign him as an international free agent by offering Wang the most money, the sinker wasn't a part of his repertoire.
They liked that his fastball was in the 90s and that he threw strikes and had great mound presence. But it wasn't until he was here for a full season that organizational pitching guru Billy Connors decided to teach him the sinker grip, saying yesterday during a telephone interview, "It was a natural because of the way he held the ball inside the stitches."
The pitch didn't pay immediate dividends. Wang kept getting blisters on his fingers in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, prompting him to abandon the pitch periodically. He experienced mediocre results then, but he and the Yankees are enjoying the payoff now.
Wang, who now has calluses on his fingers that allow him to throw his heavy sinker almost nonstop, has not allowed a run in his last 18 innings. He's relied on a pitch that typically reaches the mid-90s for an amazing rate of groundouts - 36 of the 54 outs during his scoreless streak have come via the ground ball.
Posted by Steve Lombardi at August 4, 2006 09:53 AM
Personally, Steve, I don't believe this story at all. Isn't Connors part of the Tampa Mafia, the people who've been hampering Cash and Torre from continuing to win World Championships? Isn't he the guy that kept stabbing Stottlemyre in the back (the guy George kept sending pitchers to Tampa to "work with") and undermining his authority as pitching coach? If you ask me, the story was probably made up by Bill Emslie, Randy Levine, or Mark Newman (or a combination of all three). They just can't allow Cash and Torre to get all the credit for Wang's success. Sure, they signed him and developed him in the minors but it was Torre and Mel who turned him into an ace. And nothing anyone says will make me believe otherwise.
Only Wang knows for sure.
Posted by: Steve Lombardi at August 4, 2006 11:19 AM
I have to agree with Johnny here. The story sounds like bull to me.
One question, though: if Wang wasn't always a sinkerballer, why doesn't he now mix in the occasional high four-seamer? If Wang could throw his 96-mile-an-hour fastball up in the zone on occasion, to give the hitters something else to look at, his K rates would probably go up. He's doing just fine with the sinker/change/slider combo he uses, but throwing one by someone upstairs once in a while would help.
I'm guessing that Johnny was being sarcastic. Just a guess.
JohnnyC? Sarcastic? Now _that_ I find hard to believe.