The sabermetric community has been abuzz the last few days with attempts to explain the collapse of Chien-Ming Wang. Driveline Mechanics did some interesting work and found that Wang’s velocity and movement are down:
When his velocity was up near 92, he was recording outs without a problem. When it dipped even just a few MPH, he was getting crushed. It reinforces the idea that very small percentage changes make a big difference in baseball.
The major difference in velocity and movement would concern me greatly if I was someone in the Yankees front office. This has all the signs of a “cascade” injury, where the initial injury to Wang’s foot has caused altered mechanics up the line or has exposed a lack of fitness elsewhere. Look for Wang to go on the 15-day disabled list, if only for his complete ineffectiveness.
Interestingly enough, they did an examination of Wang’s 2008 mechanics last year and loved what they saw:
Arm Action: Good. He sweeps his arms down, back, and out in a pendulum swing. His arm is up at footstrike, and he keeps the elbow below the PAS shoulder. He avoids excessive reverse rotation, and naturally “scap loads,” rather than forcing the issue. However, he does show the ball to CF/2b, which I don’t like, as stated before. Otherwise, very good.
Tempo: Great. 19 frames to footplant from maximal leg lift.
Ball Release: Excellent. Gets a ton of hip/torso separation (most important piece of velocity), points the PAS shoulder at the target, and powerfully throws with his whole body.
Followthrough: Excellent. Casual viewers will see what looks like gloveside flyout and not throwing against a firm front side, but it’s actually the opposite. Wang brings his chest to the glove and lets his arm travel across his body as his shoulders continue to rotate. He does indeed firm up the front side during the followthrough step, even tucking the elbow into his side to some degree (which I love). It’s only after his arm is about done with the followthrough step and into recovery where his GAS flies back, which I have no problem with. Furthermore, he aggressively brings his PAS leg up and to the side of his body, and though I’d like a bit more rotation, his great followthrough step compensates for it.
A pitcher with previously excellent mechanics is throwing with less velocity and decreased movement. I would say that a combination of rust and altered mechanics would likely be the cause for Wang’s awful start. The mechanical issue is confirmed by RAB, who found that:
In general, Wang’s throwing the ball from a spot about six inches higher this year than he did last year, no matter if you consider the good ‘08 Wang or the bad ‘08 Wang.
This is something that needs to be worked out in the bullpen rather than during games. The Yankees should skip Wang’s next start and work to improve his mechanics over the next ten days. Hopefully they can get him straightened out by the time his slot in the rotation comes up again.
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