But there is someone you should be concerned about. Chien-Ming Wang is a 29 year-old pitcher coming off of a FOOT injury. He throws a 95 mph sinker and and won 38 games in two seasons from 06-07 while eating 200 innings with ERAs in the mid threes. Wang hasn’t pitched competitively for a long time and he clearly has some mechanical issues he need to work out.
The person we should be worrying about is Yankee pitching coach, Dave Eiland. Now, I’m not advocating the hasty firing of anyone. In fact, I think that these coaches often get blamed for things that are really the fault of the players. Dave Eiland can help Wanger figure out and correct his issues, but mostly it is the pitchers, themselves, who wind up figuring out what is wrong and how to fix it. He does have a couple vital roles, however, and he seems to have failed in these capacities. At the very least, he should come under some scrutiny. His main roles, as far as I can see it are to:
- Monitor the staff: noticing who is ready to pitch and who isn’t, being involved in and often initiating the process of identifying problems and fixing them. He, or someone in the chain, has seemingly failed, here. Instead of notifying Joe Girardi and Yankee hierarchy that there was a serious problem with Wanger, fresh out of Spring Training, it has taken three putrid starts where Wang clearly could not get major league hitters out. It is Dave Eiland’s job to look at Wang in the Spring and, at the very least say, “Wanger’s stuff is really off right now, and we need more time to fix it.” Instead, Wang keeps getting the go-ahead on each and every start. A pitching coach needs to let a manager know when certain pitchers have it and when they don’t. Due to these recent blowouts, I don’t feel as if the Yankees currently have a coach in the dugout who can tell the manager whether a guy is way off his game or not. Some of these relievers and Wang are looking SO bad at times that I feel there must have been a flag that someone should have seen that said, “DON’T PITCH THIS GUY TONIGHT!”
- The pitching coach must play a vital role coaching the young pitchers to make that transition from getting out minor leaguers to getting out big leaguers. I feel that there is some concern in this regard, as well, because of the high profile failures of IPK and Hughes last year despite their proven track records in dominating AAA hitters. It seems like they did not make the proper adjustments upon making the next level. Note that Eiland has had some success with some of the young relievers, however.
So what is the real problem? Why are these situations occurring? There are two possible reasons, from my perspective, but if you guys can think of others, please feel free to share.
- Eiland may be recognizing the problems, but is not asserting himself strongly enough or is not communicating properly through the proper channels with Joe and the Yankee brass. He’s considered a very smart guy and a very hard worker, so it’s possible that, instead of blowing the whistle and saying, “shut this guy down,” he may feel that he has the responsibility and the ability to fix the problem and get Wang out for the next start. He also could possibly, as a new coach (only his 2nd year), be deferring to the pitchers or others in the organization instead of strongly asserting his views. In these cases, the overconfidence, lack of confidence, communication skills, or taking too much on himself are all fairly easily fixable with guidance and experience.
- The second explanation, however, is less encouraging. Dave Eiland may just, flat out, not KNOW how to get major league hitters out. He IS a guy, after all, who dominated AAA, but was an awful major league pitcher. Great pitching coaches can just see when a guy is off, and when he’s doing something that’s going to get him into trouble. Eiland may be sending Wang out to the wolves each start after start because he truly believes that his stuff is good enough even though it’s clearly not. Moshe’s article, here, and countless others have detailed the decreased velocity and movement in Wang’s stuff. If that is so, then why couldn’t Dave Eiland see this BEFORE his starts. Why has it taken THREE starts for Eiland and Girardi to wise up (if they even have). There may be logical answers to these questions, but if there are, then I would like to hear them. Do you guys have any idea why this has been allowed to go so far? Do you have confidence in Eiland/Girardi’s ability to determine when Wang is ready to go or not? I like both Eiland and Girardi, but my confidence has been shaken by how bad Wang has been. I feel that this should have been noticed BEFORE his starts.
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