Is Dave Eiland Right About Wang's Sinker?

After the last disaster of a start the Yankees got from Chien-Ming Wang, Dave Eiland said that he thought Wang’s sinker was better than it had been in his first two starts. Using the Pitch F/X tool provided by Brooks Baseball it’s pretty easy to check out how it was behaving for each start.

So, here’s a table with the data from his first three appearances. I’ve included the data from his dominating Opening Day start in 2008 to compare.

April 18th, 2009
Pitch Type Average Speed Max Speed Average H-Break Average V-Break
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 91.00 92.3 -10.79 3.52
SI (Sinker) 90.37 91.9 -11.92 3.55
April 13th, 2009
Pitch Type Average Speed Max Speed Average H-Break Average V-Break
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 90.52 91.6 -7.66 7.55
SI (Sinker) 90.21 91.7 -9.72 6.34
April 8th, 2009
Pitch Type Average Speed Max Speed Average H-Break Average V-Break
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 90.68 92.7 -7.77 5.70
SI (Sinker) 90.25 92.2 -9.07 4.61
April 1st, 2008
Pitch Type Average Speed Max Speed Average H-Break Average V-Break
FA (Fastball) 91.81 94.2 -12.91 4.26
SI (Sinker) 91.48 92.4 -15.35 4.72

I guess it’s slightly better in a vacuum compared to the awful from the first two starts, but it’s nothing compared to his killer sinker/fastball from 2006/2007/early 2008.

If you want to read a detailed analysis of what has changed with Wang, check out this post on RAB. The summary is: Last May, for some reason, his release point changed and he lost a great deal of both the horizontal and vertical break on his pitches as well as some speed. If you think back to last season, this makes sense. He was pretty killer for the first month and a half (though he had a stinker or two) and then all of a sudden started churning out a bunch of really bad starts and the good ones were the rarity.

It’s unclear why Wang’s release point changed. I did some digging around and I found a few articles where Dave Eiland talks about wanting him to throw more over the top but nothing solid. If it was an intentional move by Eiland, that’s pretty troubling since all signs point to this new release point being the issue. Especially when you consider that Wang was kicking ass before the change.

There’s not much they can do now since Giardi, Eiland and Wang all said he’s not hurt so they can’t use that as an excuse to put him through “rehab”. I honestly think that was a pretty foolish decision as it’s clear this is not something that is going to be worked out against the best hitters in the world, and every time he goes out there it hurts him more importantly, the team. Additionally, if it was an intentional change they’re not going to look to have him release from a less “over the top” point than before. I think Wang can be put right, I’m just doubtful it will happen with this team the way things are going.

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