In the comments to Alex’s post on Chien-Ming Wang below, reader “cult of baseball” brought my attention to this outstanding video analysis by the MLB Network’s Dan Plesac.
According to Plesac, Wang’s balance is all off. When he lifts his left leg to deliver the ball, he’s not lifting the leg nearly as high as he had a year ago, he’s bent at the waist, whereas last year he was standing straight up, and his hands are both lower and farther away from his body. There’s been a lot of talk about Wang not getting on top of his pitches, particularly his signature sinker, thus leaving them up in the zone. Plesac’s analysis shows why that might be the case.
Plesac then takes that a step further and suggests that because Wang is putting all of his weight on the right foot he broke last June when he lifts his left leg, his poor posture in that position could be a sign that the foot isn’t fully healed. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it could be a bad habit he picked up during his rehab process borne out of a fear of placing too much stress on the foot. If that’s the case, the root of the mechanical flaw is mental, which is another theory that’s been bandied about of late.
Whatever the problem is, the Yankees need to fix it, either by fixing Wang or removing him from the rotation. The Yanks are 7-3 in games Wang hasn’t started, which is a great start, particularly given the injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Xavier Nady (and to a far lesser degree Mark Teixeira), poor performance from Hideki Matsui and Cody Ransom, and the erratic performances of the middle relievers.
Second to the points about Wang, the Plesac clip highlights what a great job the MLB Network is doing in covering the game. Their analysis is thoughtful and insightful, even when it’s couched in old-school aphorisms (think Jim Kaat, who has returned to work as one of their color analysts for game broadcasts). The on-camera report of their commentators is entertaining, playful, and often quite funny, but never comes off as attention-seeking (see: ESPN, Joe Buck), but rather just as the natural result of knowledgeable baseball fans shooting-the-shit over the game they love.
Perhaps most significantly, to me, the network very much embraces the game’s history. The programming and promos are littered with vintage highlights, games, and features. One of the most eye-opening passages of Howard Bryant’s excellent (only partially because I edited it) Juicing the Game describes Fox Sports president (ca. 1995) David Hill diagnosing baseball’s problem as its affection for its own history:
“And one more thing,” Hill said to his lieutenants. “If anyone talks about any dead guys during a broadcast, I’ll sack ‘em. I’m sick of dead guys! Whenever I turn on a baseball game, all I hear about is dead guys. If I hear a name, I’m gonna ask, ‘Is he dead?’ And if he is, you’re fired. You’re all fired!”
Fox has been mutilating baseball coverage for roughly 15 years, and ESPN has followed suit. The MLB Network is undoing those wrongs, and I couldn’t be more pleased.