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.

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