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November 21, 2006

John Walsh On Worm Killer Wang

I just noticed that John Walsh (at The Hardball Times) recently did a very detailed and logical analysis on Worm Killer Wang entitled "The Most Democratic Pitcher." In the end, Walsh notes:

...seems to me that the cards are stacked ever-so-slightly against Wang having a 100-win career.

While I would normally agree with the similarity method approach that Walsh used in his study - heck, I've taken a (excuse the pun) similar approach here in the past - there's one element of Wang's game (these days) that I believe gets lost in these types of studies.

Chien-Ming Wang's average fastball speed was 93.1 MPH in 2006 - I looked it up.

I would guess that hurlers like Ray Fontenot, Greg Hibbard, Chris Holt, and Joe Magrane were not averaging that on their heater.

This is why I now think Wang is an exception to the rules that usually apply towards career projections for below-average K-rate pitchers.

I like to believe that Wang has the stuff to whiff hitters, via 93 MPH gas, it's just that he prefers to get outs quicker with grounders. But, then again, I'm a Yankees fan. So, it only makes sense for me to want to believe that Wang will go on to have a nice career in New York.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at November 21, 2006 12:33 PM

Comments

My gut feeling is Wang is going to have a 100-win career at a minimum. His strikeout ratios were good in the minors if I remember correctly, before he started featuring the splitter almost exclusively. Don't opposing batters always tell the Yankees how hard it is to hit that thing? I think he'll start featuring his other pitches a little more as he grows as a pitcher.

Posted by: JeremyM [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 01:33 PM

I'm so sick of these debates about Wang. They've existed from the moment he got here. Enough already. The guy won 19 games this year. But now he can't have a 100-win career? He won't even be average for the next few years? Give me a break. He's throwing a 96-mile-an-hour sinker. Anybody who throws that hard with that much movement is going to be okay.

Wang puts a lot of balls in play, which means he has to depend on his defense and he does give up a lot of hits, but he gets so many quick groundballs that he keeps his pitch count down and is able to go deep in games on few pitches.

I understand the importance of having the ability to strike a guy out when you need to, but strikeout rates are overrated when you're such an extreme groundball pitcher.

If you look at Kevin Brown, who had similar (maybe BETTER) stuff than Wang, he didn't start really striking guys out till the middle of his career. (I believe I read it was when he started throwing a splitter.) Then he started striking out a batter per inning.

So there's no saying that Wang won't increase his strikeout rates, but even if he doesn't, I don't believe it means that he won't be a successful pitcher. If you throw a pitch that hitters can only pound into the ground, what does it matter if you strike them out or not?

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 01:54 PM

I think that Wang will win at least 100 games. He's such a freaky player statistically that his success points out some of the limitations of statistical analysis.

Walsh did a good job with the analysis though. He closes with a sense of humility which is something that you don't see with many in the competing Baseball Prospectus crowd. There was an article that Christina Kahrl and Clay Davenport wrote recently on Matsuzaka that may have been the worst example of Prospectus hubris that I have ever seen. They claimed basically that Davenport's translations show that Matsuzaka has been the second best pitcher in all of baseball over the last four years. That is relying way too much on the sketchy evidence that backs up Davenport Translations from the Japanese leagues. I think that Matsuzaka will be good, but I also think that his numbers over the next few years will look more like Hideo Nomo's first four years in MLB than like Johan Santana or Roger Clemen's last four years

Posted by: jonm [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 02:07 PM

Wang is already up to 27 career wins. If he averages ONLY 8 wins a year, he'll have 50 wins before the age of 30. He'll definitely surpass 100 wins (barring injuries and a major loss in velocity). It's like Mo's cutter, they know it's coming, and still can't hit it. If he comes to ST with a decent curve (that he's been working on), he'll be an even better pitcher.

There are exceptions to every rule.

Posted by: Travis G. [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 03:04 PM

How come no one makes this argument against Roy Halladay? He throws a sinking fastball and doesn't strike many people out.

This year he threw 220 innings and only struck out 132.

He has better strikeout rates than Wang, but he's not a strikeout pitcher, either.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 03:20 PM

A little context is needed...

"No, I can't draw any firm conclusions from the numbers, but it seems to me that the cards are stacked ever-so-slightly against Wang having a 100-win career. Wait, let me clarify: the cards are stacked against any pitcher having a 100-win career: only 42 of the 161 pitchers in our sample won 100 games or more. And these guys all looked promising after two seasons in the majors. But, it looks to me that the odds are a bit worse for a guy like Wang who strikes out so few batters. We'll see, I guess."

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 03:33 PM

What does John Walsh know about pitchers? He's to busy hosting America's Most Wanted!

Posted by: Mike A. [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 03:40 PM

Funny, Mike A.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 03:45 PM

How come no one makes this argument against Roy Halladay? He throws a sinking fastball and doesn't strike many people out.
=========
You answered your own question; "He has better strikeout rates than Wang"

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm amazed that Wang did as well as he did despite the lack of K's (76 in 200+ innings?). Just like I was amazed last season that Chacon did so well despite seeming to always having runners on base.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 03:50 PM

man... you guys are made of iron...

You can still focus in on this Wang discussion when the third best player on the Twins just swiped the AL MVP from the capt?

I've been keeping my browser up at work hitting refresh every five mins to get Steve's two cents... lol

Posted by: Athos333 [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 03:53 PM

that's the great thing about groundball pitchers. they're always a GDP away from escaping a jam. Wang had 33 of them!

Posted by: Travis G. [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 03:53 PM

Athos, I'm just sickened by the fact Morneau won it. I could see Mauer, but Morneau? Please. Jeter was robbed...again.

Posted by: JeremyM [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2006 04:17 PM