- 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.