After ten major league appearances, Chien-Ming Wang heads into tonight’s game with a 4.31 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP having held opposing batters to a .248/.305/.343 (.223 GPA) line with a staggering 2.57 ground ball to fly ball ratio (which would rank sixth in the major leagues among qualified pitchers if Wang himself actually qualified). All of which is more than most could have asked for from a rookie pitcher thrust into an essentially permanent rotation spot due to an injury on the major league club.
But then there are these numbers: 3.30 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 1.28 K/BB. Those figures, particularly the K/9, which would be seventh worst in the majors if Wang qualified, have prompted some to call for Wang to be dealt before he is revealed as the phony they believe his low K-rate indicates he is. Taking that a step further, there are those who have accused Wang of feasting on poor-hitting teams, while struggling against more powerful offenses.
Well, thus far Chien-Ming has faced eight teams, and made starts against seven of them, here they are along with their current major league rank in runs scored and OPS:
|Team||Runs Rank||OPS Rank||AVG vs. Wang||Wang ERA|
Against those eight teams, Wang has turned in six quality starts in nine opportunities. The three exceptions being his two starts against the Devil Rays and his one against the Cardinals. His one appearance against the Red Sox came in relief.
Those stats would seem to support the image of Wang as a pitcher whose success has been largely based on facing week offenses, but I’m not convinced. To begin with, his minor league strikeout and walk rates indicate that his current low K-rate is likely to improve. In four minor league seasons between A ball and Columbus, Wang’s worst K/9 was 6.20 and his career minor league mark is 7.16 K/9. Similarly, his worst BB/9 was 2.36. Both of those marks came in his first season at double-A in 2003 and both improved when he returned to Trenton in 2004, and then improved again when he was promoted to Columbus later that year. Similarly, Wang’s second most recent start, against the Cubs who rank well above Tampa and just behind St. Louis in OPS, was his best of his young major league career and saw him strike out five men in eight innings against just one walk.
Still, until Wang acquits himself against strong-hitting teams, the doubters will have the floor. Tonight, Chien-Ming makes his first career start against the Orioles, who rank fifth in the majors in runs scored and second in the bigs in OPS. Again, I’m optimistic.