Royals Chien-Ming Wang Velocity Declines From Spring
Royals 36-year-old reliever Chien-Ming Wang defied long odds to make the roster this spring, driven by his five mph jump in fastball velocity. The heat has cooled a bit in his early appearances during the regular season.
Wang’s increased velocity was the feel-good story this spring in Surprise, Arizona. The former Yankee ace (and Cy Young runner-up in 2006) hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2013, largely due to going from a guy with a power sinker to a soft tosser that could barely break 89 on the radar gun.
After a two year exile to the minor leagues, Wang enrolled in pitching guru Ron Wolforth’s off-season boot camp and came to the KC Royals complex in Surprise lighting up radar guns to the tune of 94-95 mph. According to Brooks Baseball, Wang averaged 92.95 mph in spring training games—which was right around where he was in 2008 when he was still a top-of-the-rotation starter for the Yankees.
Unfortunately, Wang’s fastball has apparently lost a tad in his first two appearances of the 2016 season with the Kansas City Royals. Through his first (rather effective) 3.1 innings pitched, Wang’s heat has only averaged 90.89 mph.
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Despite the softer stuff, Wang has been effective in his first two games. In his 3.1 IP, he’s allowed only one run (2.25 ERA) and struck out four.
The 1 mph velocity difference isn’t huge. But, it does but a bit of a damper on some of the more hopeful projections this season. I have to number myself among the Wang Pollyannas this spring. I even speculated that Chien-Ming Wang could end up in the back end of the KC Royals rotation if Kris Medlen, or Chris Young faltered.
Give Medlen’s two Tommy John surgeries, and Young’s recent tendency to wear down with extended time in the rotation, I though the possibility that Wang enters rotation likely enough to stash him on my fantasy team as a $1 pitcher.
Right now, I’d hold off on such a move if he’s still available in your league. Yes, this early season drop could be due to either 1) a hot gun in Arizona or 2) a cool gun for both of his early appearances. Or, Wang’s arm might not like the cooler spring air of the north. Or, maybe Wang was focusing on his sinker despite Brooks Baseball listing a fourseam fastball velocity. But if Wang’s velocity remains down in his short stints early this season, then manager Ned Yost is unlikely to move him into the rotation if the need arises.
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With Dillon Gee and Danny Duffy in long reliever roles in Kansas City, and more arms stashed at AAA Omaha, the KC Royals have too many other options than to push Wang.