Chien-Ming Wang is 14-6 with a 4.10 ERA. He’s a “problem” plenty of teams would like to have. But there’s no getting around the fact that he has allowed 16 runs on 26 hits in his last 14.2 innings.
I literally helped write a book on the guy last winter and know him better than anybody else covering the team. I can tell you it’s nothing physical. He’s in the best shape of his career and his finger doesn’t get nearly as mangled when he pitches as it did a month ago.
My theory is that he’s trying too hard. He is the athletic focal point of an entire nation and all they expect is a perfect game when he pitches. He also is feeling the heat of being the ace on a team that includes Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte.
That emotion is reflected in how poorly he has pitched with men on base.
He also lost his best friend when Mike Myers was released. Myers was the guy who would prod Wang to go out and get dinner instead of having room service. They also worked out together before games.
It may not sound like much to you, but Wang is an introverted, quiet guy who doesn’t trust people easily. Imagine being in a totally foreign culture and losing the person who was helping you through it.
From a baseball standpoint, teams have done their homework on him and are taking his sinker and waiting on his other pitches, which aren’t as good. If an umpire gives Wang the low strike, he’s OK. If not, he’s got trouble.
All that said, he’s 14-6 with a 4.10 ERA and has ample opportunity to get himself right. One of Joe Torre’s strengths as a manager is getting people to trust their talent, put aside distractions and perform to their abilities. I suspect Joe and Wang will have a nice long talk sometime soon.
I personally have faith in the guy and suspect that when the regular season is over, he’s going to have 18 or 19 wins and an ERA of 3.75 or so. Getting through rough times is part of the process of maturing as a pitcher.