The first thing to note is that before you begin arguing that Chien-Ming Wang can make another start because his opponent would be the historically poor Nationals, take a moment to peruse their lineup.
The Nats’ problem is not hitting, but pitching, particularly bullpen pitching. Washington pitching is allowing almost six runs per game (5.88), which bodes well for Yankees hitters, but they’re also scoring 4.55 runs per game, a hair above average. Nick Johnson, Christian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Elijah Dukes have hit quite well this year.
Second base has been a season-long problem for Washington, as the team’s keystoners have been miserable, and a potentially season-ending injury to Jesus Flores has left catcher in the hands of ex-Yankee Wil Nieves, which is a problem given that Nieves is not a replacement level player, but whatever comes after that. It’s the floor on the elevator that doesn’t get a number, just a black button. The point being belabored here is that Washington can mash a struggling Wang just as well as any other team.
The second argument that should be dispensed with is “Wang won 19 games twice, three and two years ago.” Two years ago, George W. Bush was president. Three years ago, the economy was, if not cooking, looking a whole lot healthier than it is now. Three years ago GM and Chrysler were not bankrupt. Three years ago has zero relevance to what is happening now. Two years ago has only slightly more relevance. Ron Guidry won over 20 games three times, so surely he must have the right to get a few cracks at the Major League rotation. Obviously that’s not realistic — Guidry could do it back in the 1970s and 80s but he’s 59 now. He can no longer do it. Exactly. There is also a chance that, because of his injury, a loss of mechanics, or a loss of confidence, Wang can no longer do it either. At the very best, he can’t do it right now.
Wang is now 0-4. For all intents and purposes he is the difference in the American League East race. Yes, the Yankees have lost every game they’ve played to the Red Sox, but they’ve outplayed the Sox everywhere except head-to-head — their records independent of each other are 34-18 for the Yankees and 28-24 for the Red Sox. Sure, there have been injuries and some other burps along the way. The point here is not to fix blame, but only to underscore the fact that in a close race, and this race should continue to be close, every decision the team makes can have an outsized impact. The Yankees can continue to gamble with Wang and maybe they’ll win that gamble. Wang maintains velocity, so there’s always a chance.
On the other hand, Phil Hughes waits behind door number two, and it’s possible that, with the very good strikeout rate he’s shown thus far, he can make huge strides. All it would take is a slight uptick in his command and some new pitching patterns against lefties, who are having little trouble thwacking him (righties have barely laid a glove on him). That makes it sound all too easy — there are few more loaded phrases in life than, “All that needs to happen is” — but if you have two pitchers, Wang and Hughes, both needing to make adjustments, you might want prefer the guy with the big-time upside who you have to get established anyway because Andy Pettitte might not pitch forever. Or to put it another way, you might choose the pitcher who has had at least one quality start versus the guy who has yet to survive the fourth inning.
Let us be clear that no one knows what will happen. Dave Eiland has insisted that Wang can come back. We can take his word for that, that Wang CAN. That he will come back is a different matter. Things might click for him or they might not. Hughes too might take a step forward, a step back, or a step into the old Yankee Stadium construction site and vanish into the spot where all the construction animals were killed in a cave-in back in 1922. (Don’t do it, Phil. That’s not the way to become a winner.) Anyone who claims to have a definitive answer is lying. What remains is really a question, and then, perhaps, an argument: Can the Yankees afford to give Wang more chances?
DON’T LET HIM STOP
I have to credit Kyle Farnsworth for having had a nice little stretch of pitching for the Royals. New York’s favorite reliever has seemingly turned a corner. In a run of 17 appearances going back to April 21, Farnsworth has pitched 17.2 scoreless innings. He’s allowed nine hits, two walks, and struck out 17. Obviously those pesky home runs have not been a problem. Don’t know where this version of Farnsworth was in New York. Perhaps KC is more his speed. I figure I’ve been picking on the guy for years, so it’s only fair to acknowledge it when he does well.
MORE OF ME
Wholesome Reading has some new bits, with more to come. Warning, innocents! Politics!
In a baseball vein, those with a pass to Baseball Prospectus can check out some historical notes about the draft.