Chien-Ming Wang: Just a .500 Pitcher

KP WeeSenior Writer IJune 6, 2008

A pitcher's win-loss record is often times misleading.

I've written before about Matt Cain of the Giants, and his poor win-loss record from last season despite a fine ERA. I've talked about the Blue Jays' starters not getting any runs.

The other side is pitchers who thrive despite being awful.

Take the Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang, for example.

Wang has a 6-2 record, but it could easily be 6-6 or worse.

But thanks to the run support he's been getting, Wang has avoided losses in starts where he's been awful.

Take Wang's latest stinker on Thursday afternoon, for instance. Wang gave up seven runs against the weak-hitting Toronto Blue Jays and was gone in the fifth, down 7-2.

Of course, the Yanks rallied, and were down 8-6 heading into the last of the ninth.

Toronto closer B.J. Ryan got the first two outs and Wang was one out away from defeat.

But the Yankees got three straight hits, capped off by Jason Giambi's game-ending home run on an 0-2 pitch, to allow Wang to escape without a loss.

Thursday's poor outing was the fourth-straight start where Wang has surrendered at least five runs, yet he is only 0-1 in that span, thanks to the Yankees' bailing him out with tons of run support.

In those four starts, Wang has an 8.75 ERA and has walked 14 in only 23.2 innings pitched, while fanning 11. And while Wang is not a strikeout pitcher, it's alarming that he's walked more than he's struck out.

Wang, who started the year 6-0 in his first seven starts, has gone winless in six starts since then. He is 0-2 in those half-dozen appearances, with an ugly 6.45 ERA, again with more walks than strikeouts (20-17) in 37.2 innings.

In addition to Thursday's comeback against the Blue Jays, there have been other sure losses turned into no-decisions or wins.


May 25 versus Seattle. The Mariners led 5-2 after seven innings, an outing in which Wang gave up all five runs, including an Ichiro Suzuki homer. But the Yankees battered Seattle closer J.J. Putz in the eighth and Wang avoided the loss.

Putz's throwing error actually set up the tying run, which later crossed the plate on a sac fly, and then Ichiro inexplicably lost Jose Molina's flyball in the sun as the Yankees scored four times to rally for a 6-5 win.


May 13 in Tampa Bay. Okay, Wang actually pitched well, but was two outs away from defeat, down 1-0 to the surprising Rays. Alas, Hideki Matsui homered off Troy Percival to tie it in the ninth.


Apr. 16 versus Boston. Wang allowed a run in the very first inning, only to see the Yanks supply him with three runs in the bottom half. Wang promptly loaded the bases the very next inning, and gave up a run.

New York gave him four runs in the fourth, but again, Wang couldn't shut down the Red Sox the next half-inning. Staked to a 7-3 lead, Wang gave up five straight hits before being taken out. Wang was charged with eight runs, but New York won 15-9.


Apr. 22 in Chicago. In an unimpressive outing, Wang gave up ten hits in six innings and was down 3-2. However, the Yanks scored seven runs in the next two innings to give Wang the victory.

Of course, the bullpen is a big part of the equation too. After Wang is removed from a game, the 'pen basically has to shut down the opposition for the Yanks to have a chance to rally.

If this happens far too many times, it will definitely wear out the arms of their bullpen, and you shouldn't have to do that when your No. 1 starter is out there on the mound.

So, is Wang really that good? Well, think about his last four outings. Think about him getting offensive help from Matsui and Giambi. Think about the bullpen having to come in and try to be perfect when he's not.