Monday, August 07, 2006

PECOTA Does Wang

Part One: In which we set the stage

We're in the middle of discussing what will become of Chien-Ming Wang's career. A cursory examination of his profile reveals nothing definitive--and not much positive, to be honest.

Today we're putting aside our own biases and looking at a more objective examination of Wang's future. Nate Silver's PECOTA system is custom-made for the task. For those not familiar, PECOTA takes into account a player's age, height, weight, handedness, stats, what have you to find similar players in history, then sees how said players developed. Coming into this season, these were Wang's top twenty comparables:

1. Don August: Decent rookie season in 1988; fell off a cliff after that and was finished by 1991.

2. Rick Matula: Career lasted just a couple of seasons, neither of which are worth noting.

3. Zach Day: Former Yankee farmhand. Fringe major leaguer.

4. Kevin Brown: We’ll get back to him.

5. John Butcher: A few useful seasons mixed in with some clunkers.

6. Bob Forsch: I gotta be honest: this is the first I’ve heard of Forsch. Good career, though. Nearly 2800 innings of league average ball. Also won two Silver Slugger awards. Bonus.

7. Mike Krukow: Nearly 2200 innings of nearly league average ball.

8. Brian Lawrence: Never lived up to expectations in San Diego. Traded to Washington but had season-ending surgery in the spring.

9. Brandon Duckworth: Failed prospect. Wasn’t he shot while in the minors?

10. Bob Sadowski: 2.62 ERA as a rookie, out of the majors three years later.

11. Vicente Padilla: Regressed after early promise. Useful innings-eater in Texas right now.

12. John Denny: Won the Cy Young in 1983. Mediocre career otherwise.

13. John Burkett: Long, underwhelming career. Memorably pitched out of his mind for the Braves in 2001 at the age of 36.

14. Al Nipper: Another short, non-noteworthy career.

15. Randy O’Neal: More bleh.

16. John Dopson: Managed a 3-11 record as a rookie despite a 3.04 ERA. I’m going to guess injuries felled him.

17. Bob Anderson: We’re almost home, just a couple more.

18. Joey Hamilton: Rivaled Todd Stottlemyre with the constant injury woes. Peaked in his first two seasons anyway. This is worst-case scenarion right here.

19. Dick Bosman: 2.19 ERA as a 25-year-old, followed by a 3.00 ERA, then nothin’.

20. Derek Lowe: Up-and-down closer, then an up-and-down starter.

Outside of Kevin Brown, there isn’t much to be excited about. A few guys had long, useful careers, but no stars. Twelve of them never pitched 1,000 innings, though four of those twelve are still active.

Overall, the average career for Wang’s top twenty comparables was 71-64, 3.97 ERA, 1247 IP. Their age-26 average was 4.14 ERA in 147 IP, and after 26, they posted a 4.05 ERA in 799 IP. Wang, 26 this year, thus far has 156 IP with a 3.58 ERA.

Draw from that what you will. Certainly it doesn’t bode well for Wang, though his strong 2006 will hopefully draw him better comparables from PECOTA next season.

Aww, but we can’t leave off on that pessimistic note. I still need to get back to Kevin Brown. Here is his career through 26:

610 IP, 3.82 ERA, 614 H, 304 K, 228 BB, 42 HR

That’s right: Kevin Brown barely struck anyone out early in his career. It wasn’t until 1997, when he was 32, that the K’s started coming in spades. Something tells me Brian Cashman would be thrilled if Wang goes down this same path.

Could Yankee fans go from despising Brown to rooting for his clone? Is his career what Wang has ahead of him? Can Wang add the secondary pitches Brown used to dominate the league for so long?

Coming soon: Part Three, Fun with Sinkers

No comments: