Recent news came out that New York Yankees starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang was shut down again after experiencing shoulder pain while throwing off of flat ground*. Reports have Wang possibly out for the season.
*Can someone please explain how throwing off flat ground helps a pitcher? In games, pitchers throw off 10 inch high mounds, not flat ground. So when I see that a pitcher is rehabbing by throwing off of flat ground, it makes no sense. If your shoulder or elbow doesn’t hurt off flat ground but hurts when you get on the mound, does it make you feel better?
Losing Wang for the balance of the 2009 season really isn’t a big deal for the Yankees. It’s not like Wang was pitching well when he was healthy. What good are “giving a team innings and a veteran presence” when those innings and that presence aren’t very good?
Why isn’t it a big deal? Because Wang was never in the Yankees long term pitching plans.
Despite back to back 19 win seasons in 2006 and 2007, the Yankees did not offer Wang a long term deal. They only renewed Wang for $489,500 for 2007 and went to arbitration in 2008, where Wang lost.
Instead of signing Wang to a multi-year deal, the Yankees fought Wang in the arbitration process, even gloating after their “win” in court. Wang received $4 million that year and avoided arbitration in 2009, signing for $5 million.
Although he still was completely under Yankee control for the next several years, and before Wang was hurt last year in Houston, he had the highest winning percentage of any pitcher in Major league history with at least 50 career wins. His record entering 2009 was 54-20, for a .730 winning percentage.
If most other clubs had Wang and that record, they would have signed Wang to an extension which carried him through his arbitration years and the first couple years of his free agency. Why then did the Yankees not want to secure Wang’s services through his first couple years of free agency?
The Yankees felt Wang was not as good as his record indicated. The Yankees were waiting and wanting Wang to regain his prior form this season, then trade Wang mid-season to a contender for prospects.
Sinkerball pitchers almost NEVER have long, successful careers. The problem with sinkerball guys is that when their pitches stop sinking, the get hit hard–like Wang has this season. They usually do not have any other pitches to fall back on. When Wang was ultra-successful a few seasons ago, he was mixing in his 95 MPH four-seam fastball, and locating his slider better.
The idea for the Yankees was to promote their younger pitchers in 2009, but to wean them into the rotation. They didn’t want to thrust Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy into the fire as quickly as they did last season. Brian Cashman knew of the innings limitation on the young guns and the team needed to have more than five starters this season.
It is a similar concept which Minnesota did last year, using Livan Hernandez to give them depth early on until they could bring up Francisco Liriano mid-season.
With Wang gone by mid-season, both Hughes and Kennedy would be in the rotation with CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte paving the way. Another choice for innings from the rotation was Alfredo Aceves, a nice versatile option.
Envision all four younger guys combining for the last two rotation spots.
After Joba’s innings would be eaten up by August, he would then go to the bullpen. I know the New York papers on Friday had the Joba innings limit thing, but we were on it back in April.
And the Yankees have some really good arms coming up through the system, too. I love Zach McAllister, and despite the Yankees putting him on the minor league DL, he will be in the Bronx by the 2011 season–if not sooner. He is a strike throwing machine. I always love to push young pitchers.
The one thing that hurt the Yankees grand plans were the injuries. Nobody saw Kennedy’s aneurysm or Wang’s shoulder issues. Another thing was Hughes’ dominance in the pen. His pen success only goes to show that it is much easier to be a reliever than a starter, making starters much more valuable. It also shows that patience is needed with young starting pitchers such as Joba, Hughes and Kennedy.
Since Wang is now hurting again, don’t expect the Yankees to tender him a contract for 2010. He wasn’t in their plans for the second half of 2009 and shouldn’t be in their plans for 2010.