March 2014

March 31 – Happy Birthday Chien-Ming Wang

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He’s back and I wish I could honestly end this sentence with the phrase “he’s better than ever,” but that would be a stretch. That’s because in 2006 and 2007 when this elegant Taiwanese right-hander was throwing his hard sinking slider every fifth day in the Yankee rotation, he was one of the very best pitchers in baseball.

If it had been any other player in that fateful day’s Yankee lineup besides Jorge Posada on first base when Chien-Ming Wang laid down that bunt against the Houston Astros, Wang might still be a Yankee today.

At the time, Wang was on his way to earning his eighth victory of the 2008 season against just two defeats. Because it was an inter-league game being played at the NL team’s home park, there was no DH and Wang had to take at bats. Leading 3-0 in the sixth, Wang came to the plate with men on first and second with one out. He attempted a sacrifice but Astro pitcher Roy Oswalt was able to field the bunt and make the throw to third in time to nail the very slow Posada. The play forced Wang to become the baserunner at first. That’s when the floodgates opened for the Yankee offense as they proceeded to score six runs. Unfortunately for Wang and the Yankees, as he was running the bases to score the second of those six runs, he tore a tendon in his right foot and his season was over. As it turned out, so was the Yankees’ thirteen year streak of playoff appearances and effectively, so was Wang’s Yankee career.

My point is this. If its Jeter or A-Rod or Abreu on second at the time, Oswalt probably forgets about the play at third and goes to first for the second out of the inning.

I was a big fan of Wang despite the fact that he never seemed to pitch well in the playoffs. He had a 55-26 career record with New York. Five years ago at his time I was hoping he’d settle in as the number three starter behind CC and AJ and have a great year. That didn’t happen. When he did come back from his foot injury, probably a bit too early, he wasn’t able to replicate his old delivery and hurt his throwing shoulder.  He underwent shoulder surgery and signed with the Nationals, finally making it back to a big league mound in late July of 2011. He got 11 starts for Washington during the second half of that season. He finished with a 4-3 record and the Nats re-signed him to a $4 million deal to pitch for them in 2012. He then regressed and Washington let him walk at the end of the 2011 season. I thought his career was over. But then came the 2013 World Baseball Championships during which Wang pitched 12 effective innings for his native Taiwan.

The Yankees signed him to a minor league deal after that tournament but released him so he could pitch for the Blue Jays. He put together two great starts for Toronto in 2013 but then faltered and got released. The Reds signed him to a minor league contract and he began the 2014 season pitching in their farm system.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2005 NYY 8 5 .615 4.02 18 17 0 0 0 0 116.1 113 58 52 9 32 47 1.246
2006 NYY 19 6 .760 3.63 34 33 1 2 1 1 218.0 233 92 88 12 52 76 1.307
2007 NYY 19 7 .731 3.70 30 30 0 1 0 0 199.1 199 84 82 9 59 104 1.294
2008 NYY 8 2 .800 4.07 15 15 0 1 0 0 95.0 90 44 43 4 35 54 1.316
2009 NYY 1 6 .143 9.64 12 9 2 0 0 0 42.0 66 46 45 7 19 29 2.024
8 Yrs 62 34 .646 4.37 136 126 3 4 1 1 792.1 858 407 385 59 234 364 1.378
NYY (5 yrs) 55 26 .679 4.16 109 104 3 4 1 1 670.2 701 324 310 41 197 310 1.339
WSN (2 yrs) 6 6 .500 4.94 21 16 0 0 0 0 94.2 117 59 52 13 28 40 1.532
TOR (1 yr) 1 2 .333 7.67 6 6 0 0 0 0 27.0 40 24 23 5 9 14 1.815
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

March 30 – Happy Birthday Dick Woodson

The only former Yankee celebrating a birthday today is a big right hander named Dick Woodson, who appeared in just eight games for New York during the 1974 season and then left the big leagues. Woodson did all of his other pitching for the Twins. I can actually remember when he broke into their rotation. Back then, Minnesota had a young Bert Blyleven, veteran Jim Perry and one of my all-time favorite Yankee announcers, Jim “Kitty” Kaat, as starters. Those three guys had a total of 785 regular season victories between them. Woodson won 14 games as a Twin starter in 1972 and 10 more the following season. Then in May of 1974, Minnesota swapped Woodson for a lefthanded pitching prospect named Mike Pazik, who had been the Yankees first round pick in the 1971 draft. Neither pitcher performed well for their new teams. Woodson had actually torn his rotator cuff before the trade and back in those days, that injury ended a pitcher’s career.

Woodson did, however, play a significant role in baseball history when, in 1974 he was handpicked by the legendary Marvin Miller to become the first Major League Player to go through the newly established arbitration process. Miller had studied every eligible player’s contract and discovered Woodson was the most underpaid player in baseball. At the time, the Twins stingy owner, Calvin Griffith was paying the pitcher $15,000 and had offered him a $2,000 raise after a 14-victory season. Miller’s minions had discovered that pitchers with similar stats were making two and even three times more than Woodson was being offered. Woodson’s arbitration starting point was $30,000 and he won his case easily.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1974 NYY 1 2 .333 5.79 8 3 2 0 0 0 28.0 34 19 18 6 12 12 1.643
5 Yrs 34 32 .515 3.47 137 76 18 15 5 2 589.0 522 263 227 55 253 315 1.316
MIN (5 yrs) 33 30 .524 3.35 129 73 16 15 5 2 561.0 488 244 209 49 241 303 1.299
NYY (1 yr) 1 2 .333 5.79 8 3 2 0 0 0 28.0 34 19 18 6 12 12 1.643
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.

March 29 – Happy Birthday Bill Castro – 2013 Reg Season Predictions

Cy Young was born on today’s date, way back in 1867. The legendary right-hander won 511 games during his 22-season career, more than any other man in baseball history. Young ended up in Cooperstown. He set such a standard for pitching excellence that the award given annually to the best pitcher in each league is named after him. One of the pitchers to win that award was also born on this date, 77 years after Young. His name was Denny McLain and he actually won the AL Cy Young Award two times in a row. McLain was baseball’s last thirty-game winner and he’s also quite a character who battled both drinking and gambling addictions and ended up in jail.

A Yankee pitcher also born on this date never came close to winning thirty games in a season or a Cy Young Award. His name is Bill Castro. He was a very good relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers for much of the 1970′s, winning 25 games and saving 44 more during his seven seasons with that team. The Yankees signed this right-handed  native of the Dominican Republic as a free agent in February of 1981. Castro ended up pitching in just eleven games for New York during the strike-shortened season that followed, winning one and losing one decision. The Yankees then traded him to the Royals for third baseman Butch Hobson. When he stopped playing he got into coaching and worked for the Brewers organization until 2009. We know Castro won’t be following Cy Young to Cooperstown and let’s hope he never follows Denny McLain to jail, either.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1981 NYY 1 1 .500 3.79 11 0 6 0 0 0 19.0 26 13 8 2 5 4 1.632
10 Yrs 31 26 .544 3.33 303 9 198 0 0 45 546.1 564 245 202 36 145 203 1.298
MIL (7 yrs) 25 23 .521 2.96 253 5 179 0 0 44 411.0 415 164 135 22 108 145 1.273
KCR (2 yrs) 5 2 .714 4.56 39 4 13 0 0 1 116.1 123 68 59 12 32 54 1.332
NYY (1 yr) 1 1 .500 3.79 11 0 6 0 0 0 19.0 26 13 8 2 5 4 1.632
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/16/2014.