|Horrible Start by Wang Might be Sign||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on April 20, 2009
Pitchers get derailed for so many reasons and even sometimes no reason at all.Â You donâ€™t have to look far for those kinds of pitchers -- Dontrelle Willis is an example, and Rick Ankiel, now an outfielder, is another.Â One day they just stepped to the mound and couldnâ€™t find the strike zone.Â Both cases may be due to some form of mental trauma or even stress.Â Â And while I canâ€™t put my finger on when Willis lost his mojo, I watched Ankiel lose his under the pressure of his first playoff appearance versus the Braves in game 1 of the 2000 NLDS when in a single inning he walked four batters and threw five wild pitches.Â It was presumed the problem was psychological, but Ankiel never managed to outgrow it.
Admittedly Maineâ€™s surgery was more likely to affect his throw; he had bone spurs shaved off of his shoulder joint.Â As a result heâ€™s been struggling to keep his command and stay consistent pitch after pitch.Â But Maine at least hasnâ€™t been disastrous so far this season.
Wang on the other hand has been.Â With three starts under his belt so far Wang has yet to last more than 3.2 innings in a single game and has lasted a total of six innings in those three starts.Â That goes with an ERA of 34.50, six walks, one wild pitch and one hit by pitch.Â Â His spot in the rotation, as you might expect, is well deservedly in jeopardy.Â
The problem is that the Yankees arenâ€™t sure what to do about it.Â Physically Wang appears to be fine, his delivery seems smooth and natural, his mechanics are not startlingly awry, but inning after inning heâ€™s throwing batting practice to opponents.
Sending him down to the minors to work out his issues is what the team really should do and needs to do, but the team is already thin on pitching, not just at the top of the rotation but deep in the bullpen.Â Wang may be partly to blame for the teamâ€™s second worst in the AL (and third worst overall) ERA, but heâ€™s not the only one, as six other pitchers including Joba Chamberlain have ERAs over 5 -- and there arenâ€™t many better options lurking in the minors at the moment.
That means the Yankees need Wang to get over this issue and quickly.Â Having to demote him for a few starts isnâ€™t something that scares this team, but the concern that his problem is more than mechanical is.Â It isnâ€™t often that a pitcher who loses â€śit,â€ť no matter if you think â€śitâ€ť is control of the strike zone or that mental edge, seems to come back.Â
Thatâ€™s what frightens the Yankees and their fans, the thought that perhaps Wang is fine physically, but not within the confines of his own mind.Â In terms of star power that wouldnâ€™t rank up there with the loss of A-Rod or Jeter, but in terms of baseball, losing Wang could sabotage the whole season.
Pitching is unpredictable, but the one thing the Yankees are sure of is that without Wang they probably donâ€™t have enough of it.
Check back Wednesday as Adam and Daniel debate how the Yankees should react to the Chien-Ming Wang situation.