Remember Chien-Ming Wang?

Wang, once the Yankees most reliable starter, is now in the minor leagues with the Washington Nationals

It may seem like a distant memory, but there was a period of time where a man in the Washington Nationals minor league system was the Yankees ace from 2006-2008.

It’s hard to forget the tailspin that Wang made in the 2009 season, but, just in case some forgot about the Yankee career of Chien-Ming Wang, here is a little trip down memory lane.

Wang made his debut in 2005, where, as usual, the Yankees starting rotation was in shambles.  The opening day rotation included Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano and Kevin Brown.  They also threw names out there like Darrel May, Tim Redding and Sean Henn.  Al Leiter even came back to make 10 starts, posting a 5.49 ERA.  And, how can one forget about the cinderella seasons from Shawn Chacon (7-3, 2.85) and Aaron Small (10-0, 3.20)?

Anyway, back to Wang.  In 2005 he made 17 starts, going 8-5 with a 4.02 ERA.  Not his most impressive season, but he did prove to the Yankees that his “bowling ball,” power sinker could get outs.  And outs he did get, emerging as the staff ace the next three seasons.

During his seasons as the ace of the staff (2006-2008), he won 46 games, including back to back 19 win seasons in 2006 and 2007.  He tied Johan Santana in 2006 with the league lead in wins, and during those two 19 win seasons, he made 63 starts and pitched 313.1 innings, 167 more than Carl Pavano in his four years with the Yankees.

Perhaps the most impressive part about Wang’s numbers were his strikeouts, or lack thereof.  In his Yankee career (2005-2009), he pitched a total of 670.2 innings, while striking out only 310 batters.  On average, that is about 99 strikeouts per season, according to baseball-reference.

But, the 2008 season was the start of the demise of Wang.  He was on his way to having another fine season, going 8-2 with a 4.07 ERA in 95 innings.  He even became the first pitcher to win six games that year, after going 5-0 in April.  But, this season was indeed the last pleasant memory of Wang in a Yankees uniform.

On June 15, 2008 against the Houston Astros, Wang injured his ankle rounding third base, which caused him to miss the entire season.  It is safe to say, and the numbers back it up, that Wang was not the same pitcher again.

In 2009, Wang was healthy again, and he joined a rotation with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain.  This may have been the best Yankees starting rotation on paper in a long time, but Wang’s career with the Yankees in 2009 was very short lived.  He went 1-6 with a 9.64 ERA, including a demotion to the bull pen.  Wang was also the losing pitcher in the 22-4 thrashing of the Yankees courtesy of the Cleveland Indians, a very dark day in Yankees history.

But, as we all know, the Yankees won their 27th World Series in 2009, riding the arms of Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettitte all season long and all through October.  Basically, Wang’s once imposing presence in the starting rotation was not missed.

Wang was placed on the 60 day disabled list on July 15, eventually undergoing season ending shoulder surgery on July 30.  This was his second stint on the DL in 2009, marking the end of his once impressive tenure with the Yankees.

As previously stated, Wang is now with the Washington Nationals in their minor league organization rehabbing from his shoulder surgery.

From ace of the Yankees to Nationals minor leaguer, Wang really went from the top of the world to rock bottom.

About Steve Henn

Yankee fan living in Rhode Island. Aspiring Yankee beat writer. Hockey player and coach.
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11 Responses to Remember Chien-Ming Wang?

  1. Rob Abruzzese says:

    A lot of people were upset when the Yankees cut this guy loose, but shoulder injuries are giant question marks. It looks like Brian Cashman made the right, but tough, choice to cut him loose. His agent was saying he would be back in the end of May. That just wasn't realistic.

  2. Steve Henn says:

    Exactly. He is still rehabbing from that shoulder surgery as we speak.

  3. Dan Reiner says:

    He actually hasn't even been cleared to start rehabbing and may not be cleared until after the season. The right move indeed.

  4. Steve P says:

    Correct or corroborate this for me: I do remember the Yankees being concerned about his lack of strikeouts and tried to get him to work in more off-speed pitches, especially that slider. When he started doing this, circa late 2008, he just seemed to lose what made him great. He didn't pound hitters with that bowling ball sinker. Hitters used to swing at everything because they knew it was coming, but it had so much drop to it that they just pounded it into the dirt. Hell, CMW might have been the reason Jeter's UZR Rating was so low (just kidding). Anyway, I might be making all of that up on circumstance, but I miss the Wang who threw 81 pitches in 8 innings against Tampa Bay a couple of years ago.

  5. Larry says:

    Except his injury, hope he may overcome his mental issue while the moment of pitching, he thinks bit much sometimes and disturb his focus on hitter occasionally, but this is the usual way he must be through it, surely he will be good and go more farther than now…

  6. Mike says:

    WANG's POWER sinker is no.1 in MLB

  7. Rob Abruzzese says:

    Not anymore, not for a long time now.

  8. Jacky says:

    Yankees will regret when Wang recovery, 2011 he will be ACE again

  9. Justafan says:

    Wang was never really an "ace," and especially not for the whole era of 2006-2008. Mike Mussina was better in 2006, but Wang managed to have 4 more decisions go his way. Wang was the best in 2007, a little better than a mediocre Pettitte season, and Mussina had that one terrible season. Mussina was easily the best starter in 2008, and for those who only care about the Wins stat- Mussina even won 20 games! ( not 19, but 20!). Evluating the staff from 2006-2008, even if you overlook the fact that Mussina was better in every category except for wins, he even managed to tie Wang for total wins. Mussina's second best season was better than Wang's best. Wang was an "ace" in the sense that he managed to be the best pitcher on the staff one season, was more reliable than a bunch of injury prone aging journeyman and career minor leaguers, and came close to matching the overall production of a declining 37-39 year old Mike Mussina.

  10. Wang the Ace says:

    Wang is the de facto ace of Yankees from 2006 to 2007. Wang is efficient, durable, and gets the job done, time after time. Wang was probably rushed back too early before he fully recovered from his previous injury, which would explain the anomalous rise of his pitching statistics. The departure of Torre and the pitching coach are also contributing factors.

    The Yankees is probably not the right organization for Wang. I remember he was taken to arbitration over very small money, and the organization made a ridiculous news release over winning his arbitration.

    I wish Wang good luck in his recovery. There is nothing wrong with taking a year hiatus while regaining physical health. I hope he comes back in 2011 with a vegeance.

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