Wednesday, June 17, 2009

OK, So Now What?

That's the question everyone is asking.

What should the Yankees do with Chien-Ming Wang now?

Wang was given an ultimatum before Wednesday night's start: pitch well or lose your spot in the rotation.

What Wang gave was a middle of the road response.

Wang pitched a season-high five innings and allowed three runs, but the Yankees' offense couldn't touch Nationals starter John Lannan in a 3-2 loss at Yankee Stadium, New York's first loss this season when it's allowed three or few runs.

Wang wasn't terrible. In fact, it was his best start of the year, which really isn't saying much. Three runs in five innings is hardly a good start -- and he lost to the 17-win Nationals.

Wang (0-5) allowed six hits, walked two, struck out four and threw 53 of 91 pitches for strikes. Ten of the 15 outs he recorded were on the ground and he dropped his ERA 12.65. He was better. Question is was he good enough?

For Joe Girardi, he was. Girardi said Wang will likely start Tuesday at Atlanta.

“That was the old Wang,” Jorge Posada said. “Everything I saw was positive. He gave us a chance to win that game.”

Wang got through the first three innings without allowing a run, although he didn't get through any of those innings without allowing a runner.

In the fourth Wang fell behind Adam Dunn 3-and-0 and grooved a 93 mph fastball that Dunn crushed for his 18th homer and a 1-0 lead.

Wang finally gave it up in the fifth. Willie Harris singled and stole second before Anderson Hernandez lined to short. Christian Guzman singled to put runners on the corners and Nick Johnson was then credited with a two-run triple, though if Melky Cabrera hadn't made a foolish attempt for the ball, only one run would have scored.

Wang settled down to finish inning, but the Nationals had a 3-0 lead, and against Lannan, that was just too much.

Lannan was dominant, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth before it was broken up by Robinson Cano's leadoff homer to make it 3-1.

Lannan went 8-1/3 innings, allowing four hits, two runs and one walk. He was efficient, striking out four and throwing 71 of 108 pitches for strikes, and he was constantly ahead of the hitters.

He finally tired in the ninth, allowing a leadoff homer to Johnny Damon and a one-out single to Mark Teixeira before being lifted for Mike MacDougall.

The Yankees seemed to be in position for yet another comeback as Brett Gardner pinch ran and stole both second and third. Alex Rodriguez then walked to bring up Cano.

Cano battle through a nine-pitch at-bat, but all he had to show for it was an game-ending doubleplay, a loss for Wang and a guarantee the Yanks won't sweep the Nats.

So should Wang get another start off this game? For all the progress he seemed to make, it was against the lowly Nationals -- and he lost.

Right now Wang's a guaranteed loss in the rotation, though he does seem to have short effective stretches of up to three innings.

On the other hand, this guy was the winningest pitcher in the majors for a two-year stretch and is still young. If the Yankees send him to the bullpen, do the ruin him?

I don't think so. As Griardi told Wang when he issued this ultimatum, this is a result oriented business and Wang isn't getting the results in the rotation.

He did, however, get results in the bullpen and there is nothing that says he can only be used in a mopup role or as a long reliever. Plus, putting Wang in the bullpen doesn't mean he's finished as a starter or that Yankees have lost him. It simply puts him in the role where he's most effective right now for this season. The team can work on reclaiming him as a starter in winter ball and have him ready for next spring.

Throw in the facts that the Phil Hughes is looking more and more like a major league starting pitcher every day and that there is no guarantee the Yankees can rebuild Wang as a starter this season and I think the answer is clear.

Get Wang out of the rotation. The Yankees can't afford a guaranteed loss once every five days.

Runners In Scoring Position
0-for-3 (.000)
158-for-600 (.263)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
92-for-332 (.277)
Vs. Red Sox
11-for-82 (.134)

Up Next
Thursday vs. Nationals, 1:05 p.m., YES
Craig Stammen (0-2, 5.86) vs. Joba Chamberlain (3-1, 3.84)

Joba needs to bounce back with a huge effort after getting through only four innings last time out and feuding with catcher Posada over pitch selection. With a day game after a night game, we probably won't be seeing Posada behind the plate, which means Joba should have an easier time with Francisco Cervelli.


Matthew in Hoboken said...

Rob Neyer makes a strong case for the proposition that Wang deserves another start:

Aviv said...

Matthew, it's not that strong of an arguement. Fact of the matter is Wang couldn't even get through an inning against the worst lineup in baseball without allowing a runner on base.

Put it like this: Does anyone anywhere have any confidence that when Wang pitches the Yankees will win?

More likely, people expect a loss, or at best for him to leave the game after five innings tied. No staff can thrive with that.

That all said, the Yankees are going to continue to trot him out there and hope they can get him turned around. We'll see where the Yankees stand if that turnaround does happen.

Dave said...

I, for one, would encourage the Yankees to continue believing in Wang.

Aviv said...

Dave, as long as the Sox continue trot Dice-K out there.