Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The forgotten one - Chien Ming Wang

The excerpt above is copyright content from Baseball Prospectus 2009

As I have been perusing the 2009 projections and previews for the Yankees and reading the Baseball Prospectus 2009 Annual, one extremely interesting player to look at is Chien Ming Wang. As I first touched on a couple of weeks ago, the projections do not paint a pretty picture for Wang's 2009 season. It seems as though he loses a lot of value because PECOTA only projects him to start only 19 games, while appearing in 30.

I'm unsure if there are database errors involved with Wang's playing time, but PECOTA does project his attrition rate to be 24.4%. Put simply there is a nearly 25 percent chance that Chien Ming Wang's 2009 opposing batters faced will decrease by greater than 50% (based on his baseline projection) due to injury, poor performance or managerial decision. That is a baseline projection that only has him throwing 126.33 IP to begin with. Referring back to the team health reports, Will Carroll only lists Wang as "code yellow," so it seems that these two systems are at odds with each other. One can assume that if Wang is hurt again in 2009, PECOTA will be right and his value to the team will be more similar to 2008 when he only contributed .29 wins to the team according to SNLVAR (support neutral lineup-adjusted value added above replacement) rather than the 5.75 in 2006 and 5.96 in 2007. As of now, his baseline PECOTA projection gives him a very conservative 2.04 for 2009.

Essentially, PECOTA projects Wang to be a solid #3 or #4 pitcher in the Yankees rotation, settling in nicely to his actual spot in the rotation. However, Wang has a history of outperforming his PECOTA projections and pitching like a #1 or #2. Wang is likely a case that is not handled well by the system due to its strong preference for pitchers with high K rates. That being said, the writeup included in the 2009 Baseball Prospectus Annual mentions that Dave Eiland encouraged Wang to go to his slider more often in strikeout situations before his injury in 2008. As a result his K rate improved from his career numbers, while his groundball and walk rates got worse.

In the end, the writeup provided in the Baseball Prospectus 2009 Annual does not do a satisfactory job in explaining the massive drop in production predicted by PECOTA for Chien Ming Wang. Based on historical results and belief in reports that Wang's foot is fully healed, I fully expect Wang to outpeform his projections for 2009. I'm still not sold on Wang as a perennial 20 game winner, or Cy Young candidate, but I do believe in him as a guy the team would turn to for game two of a playoff series (previous playoff failures not withstanding).

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