Wang is one of those pitchers who, like Tom Glavine, continually manages to post an ERA that is far superior to his peripherals. Even after accounting for his superior groundball rate, the numbers say he’s a #3 starter, not a #1. What’s unusual is the way in which Wang is getting lucky. His BABIP is very normal, and he’s actually been a bit worse with runners in scoring position. So what gives? Wang has allowed just a .230/.271/.316 line to the hitter leading off the inning, and it's very hard to score runs when your leadoff man gets on only 27% of the time. There might be some element of skill in attacking leadoff hitters, and Wang is undoubtedly a smart pitcher who understands good situational baseball. Nevertheless, this has to be mostly luck, and the secret sauce reminds us that finesse pitchers tend to get creamed in the playoffs. This is a very vulnerable rotation, especially with both Johnson and Mussina nursing injuries.The "secret sauce" of which Nate speaks is from another one of his articles, an adaptation of a chapter from Baseball Between the Numbers where he and Dayn Perry examined more than a century's worth of playoff teams to see which factors correlated best with postseason success. In fact, only three passed the test of statistical significance; they are:
Nick Stone (East Village, NYC):[A]s someone who watches a lot of Yankees games do you think that Chien Ming Wang's success has a lot less to do with luck than his strikeout rate would indicate? Wang consistently hits the mid 90s with lots of movement, has allowed only 12 hr in 212 IP, and seems to be able to maintain a 3-1 G/F ratio in his sleep. While I usually shy away from scout terms like "stuff", I do think there is more to Wang than his a perusal of his stats would suggest. In my mind, this guy is clearly not a Granny Gooden/Kirk Reuter with a razor-thin margin for error.The Tommy John family of pitchers has nothing to do with the surgery; it's a concept Bill James introduced in his 1984 Baseball Abstract:
Jay Jaffe: I do think there's something to be said for Wang's stuff, his mid-90s velocity, his ability to keep the ball on the ground and avoid home runs; in fact, given that he also has allowed just 9 steals with 11 CS, I'd say we're looking at a Tommy John-family pitcher minus the lefthandendess, and that's a good thing because those guys tend to last longer than cockroaches.
That said, a good portion of the reason for his success is that the Yankee defense has improved in terms of efficiency; their .707 is 2nd in the AL to Detroit whereas it was 10th last year. I see that as a result mainly of last year's outfield being absent for most of this year, but some improvement in the infield may have also taken place.
1. they are left-handedWang meets all of these criteria except for the first. With a 3.14 K/9 rate, 0.50 HR/9, 9.62 H/9, the aforementioned shutdown of the stolen base, the number two ranking in the entire major leagues in total Double Plays behind him (33), and a 19-6 (.760 winning pct.), there's really no doubt about it; if anything, what's interesting is that as a righty, he's got the platoon advantage more often than most TJ-family pitchers, though lefties and righties' splits against him are basically indistinguishable (.275/.321/.384 for lefties, .279/.319/.367 for righties).
2. they are control-type pitchers
3. they cut off the running game very well
4. they receive excellent double-play support
5. they allow moderate to low totals of home runs, lower than normal for a control pitcher
6. they are able to win while allowing an unusually high number of hits per game
7. their won-loss records tend to be very team dependent, often more exaggerated than their teams'--that is, a higher winning percentage than a winning team's or lower than a losing team's
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