You can find the outfielders here.
Chien-Ming Wang 3.63 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 1.46 K/BB, 33 GS
Although Mike Mussina actually pitched better over the course of the full season, Chien-Ming Wang emerged as the Yankees default ace in 2006, winning 19 games, and fulfilling all of the promise of his strong rookie season. Looking at Wang’s monthly splits, he decreased his ERA in each of the first four months of the season, topping out with a 3.03 mark in his five July starts and following that up with eight scoreless innings against the Blue Jays on August 2.
That August 2 start was the later part of a run of 19 consecutive scoreless innings, a streak that was broken when the White Sox scored in Wang’s 158th inning of the season. Though somewhat coincidental, that number is not insignificant. In 2005, Chien-MingWang set a career high by throwing 157 innings between triple-A, the majors, and the postseason. Over his first 157 innings of 2006, Wang posted a 3.55 ERA and allowed exactly one base hit per inning and a 1.25 WHIP. Over the remainder of his season and the postseason, Wang posted a 3.80 ERA and allowed 1.24 hits per inning and a 1.44 WHIP.
Curiously, Wang also increased his strike out rate by more than a K per game and dropped his walk rate below 2 per 9 innings after that 157th inning. But then Chien-Ming Wang’s strikeout rate is one of the more perplexing statistics in baseball at the moment. For all of his success in 2006, Wang actually experienced a decrease in his already alarmingly low strikeout rate from the year before. In fact, Wang’s rate of 3.18 K/9 was the lowest by a 19-game winner since 1980.
That year two men, the A’s Rick Langford and another Yankee sinkerballer you may have heard of named Tommy John, won 19 games while striking out 3.17 and 2.65 men per nine innings respectively. Each of these men resembles Wang differently. John was a Yankee hurler adept at inducing groundballs, getting 2.36* grounders for every fly in 1980. Langford, though also a sinkerballer, was less adept at the grounder, getting just 1.11* grounders for every fly that season and an only slightly higher ratio of ground balls in the surrounding seasons. Instead, Langford’s success in 1980 had more to do with his good fortune on balls in play (.259 BABIP).
As far as the reasons for his success, Wang is more John than Langford, as he had a fairly typical .293 BABIP in 2006, but boasted the major league’s third most extreme groundball rate (3.06 GB/FB). Rather, where Langford resembled Wang was in his relative youth (Langford was 28 in 1980, John was 37) and the sharp increase in the innings he pitched that season. In his first season as A’s manager, former Yankee skipper Billy Martin allowed Langford to throw 290 innings in 1980, an increase of nearly a third over his previous career high of 218 2/3 from the year before. Wang’s increase in 2006 was even greater, a whopping 43 percent more innings than he’d ever thrown before in a single season (including the postseason, Wang pitched 224 2/3 innings in 2006).
Langford managed to replicate his success in the strike-shortened 1981 season and suffered only a modest drop off in 1982. But despite the strike and his own less-stellar pitching saving him from cracking the 240 innings mark yet again, Langford’s elbow went under the knife after the 1982 season and he never again pitched a full season. While some might be tempted to use Wang’s extreme efficiency (only Greg Maddux and Roy Halladay threw fewer pitches per inning in 2006) to quell concerns over his workload, it won’t work. Wang was as even more efficient in 2005. Given Wang’s history of shoulder problems (labrum surgery in 2001 and his DL scare late last season), the Yankees should have been more cautious with his workload this past year.
If Wang’s shoulder remains intact in 2007, what should the Yankees expect from their young star? Consider the three other pitchers who induced more than three times as many ground balls as flies in 2006: