Mostly because you get great headlines like “Riggleman Pulls Wang in the 6th”… But seriously, folks! Alright I got it out of my system. Chien-Ming Wang is reportedly going to throw off of a mound in 6-8 weeks, and that to me means he probably thinks he’ll be able to go in April. I may be wrong on that, but let’s go under that assumption. He was absolutely terrible in 2009, posting a 9.64 ERA in 42.0 IP, so the Yankees cut him lose.
Despite all of this, there is interest in him, and deservedly so, he has had a very good career so far and is only 29. Take out that 2009, where he was hurt the whole time and according to all reports throwing with a messed up motion, his numbers are impressive. From 2005-2008 he started 95 games, with a 3.79 ERA, 117 ERA+, and went 52-20 (albeit for a very good team). In 628 2/3 IP he only struck out 281, but since he only walked 178, he did well. He kept the ball on the ground as well as any pitcher in the league. So well, in fact, he gave up only 34 HRs in those 95 games! His ability to induce grounders made him the Yankees de facto Ace for a few seasons – he was 1st in Wins and 2nd in ERA among their starters in 2006, 1st in both categories in 2007.
Those grounders and keeping the ball in the park is his real asset. Checking out his GB/FB ratio according to fangraphs, his career number is 2.70 – very high. In his best season, 2006, he had a ratio over 3, but last year, it was under 2. Every year prior it was at least 2.40. His ratio in 2005 and 2006 would have been enough to lead the majors if he had done it in 2009. In 2005 he ranked 4th in the majors, in 2006 he was 3rd, in 2007 and 2008 he ranked 6th. In other words, he knows how to do this. Assuming he can get his motion right, there is no reason why he couldn’t do this again. And then, you have a pitcher that can be successful without striking anyone out, a rarity in this league. Of course, maybe this is a big assumption.
As you may know, it all went away after he broke his leg running the bases in an interleague game. The most dangerous part of interleague is making AL pitchers hit. They only do it a few times a year, and aren’t used to the stresses and strains. I don’t think if Wang had to bat every 5th day he’d be fragile or injury-prone. Of course, his injury has derailed his career and he may just want to avoid the NL.
The Nats are still in need of pitching help, and their pitching staff is far from impressive. I am not particularly impressed with Marquis and don’t see him as a long term solution. But if they sign the 30 year old groundball-maker from Tawian, they may have someone that can produce much better than league average, and be a real top of the rotation guy. If Rizzo DOES want to sign another veteran he should look in the direction of Wang.