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Pinch hitting: Greg Mathews

Posted By Chad Jennings On January 20, 2010 @ 9:26 am In Misc | 470 Comments

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Our next pinch hitter is Greg Mathews, who delved into Chien-Ming Wang’s numbers and determined it might not be such a bad thing to see him sign elsewhere.

After growing up in New Jersey, Greg was a knuckleballer at at Springfield College — it seems natural [2] that he was a pitcher – and he now works as a group sales associate at Wilmington Blue Rocks in Deleware. “In my family, you were born a Yankee fan, going all the way back to my great-grandfather who saw Lou Gehrig play,” Greg wrote. “I was 10 years old when Mattingly went deep in Game 2, and Gary Thorne’s play-by-play still echoes in my mind.”

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On the “Wang” side of a trend

In Chien-Ming Wang’s first two full seasons as a starter, he boasted 38 wins pitching in the American League East. His 2008 campaign started off at eight wins and two losses before the ankle injury occurred in Houston, and he never fully recovered, leading to his awful 2009 season.

After Wang was non-tendered this offseason, it was reported that the Yankees wanted the opportunity to match any offer that Wang receives. Sure, his Win/Loss record is great and he suffered the unfortunate injury, but would it really be a good idea to bring him back?

Off to Fangraphs.com [3] I went.

From 2006 to 2008, there were some trends that raised a red flag when looking at a sinkerballer. During his first full season in ’06, Wang had a ground ball rate of 62.8% and his line drive rate was 16.9%. The following year, his GB rate fell to 58.4% and his LD rate rose to 18.3%. This was true again in 2008, when his GB rate was down to 55% and LD rate jumped to 22.1%. From ’06 to ’08, Wang saw a 7.8% drop in ground balls, but the negatively trending batted ball percentages weren’t the only thing that caught my eye.

In 2008, Wang began to walk batters with more frequency.

In 2006, Wang faced 900 batters and walked 52, or one walk every 17.3 batters faced. In 2007, he issued a walk to every 13.9 hitters and even more often in 2008 when the rate hit 11.5. This was especially evident in his five no-decisions prior to the injury when he was walking one out of every EIGHT batters. So not only were batters hitting the ball harder every year, Wang was walking them at a rapidly increasing rate.

When looking at these stats, my theory is that batters are laying off of that low sinker. The pitches that used to be pounded into the ground are now being let go. Wang has to throw it higher in the zone and the hitters are making better contact. These are not good trends when pitching against the perennially tough batters of the AL East. I loved Chien-Ming Wang while he was here, but it is time to move on without him. What do you think?

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[1] Tweet: https://twitter.com/share

[2] seems natural: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mathegr01.shtml

[3] Fangraphs.com: http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=2074&position=P