Chien-Ming Wang seemed like he was going to be the ace of the Yankees rotation for years to come, but unfortunately, a single injury changed everything.
There are a lot of “what if” stories that you can talk about with the Yankees. Some players maybe showed flashes of what they could do and others just never got the chance to show it. One player in recent memory who was able to show us that he had the potential to be something special was Chien-Ming Wang. The right-hander was really good in his two full seasons before he got hurt and it begs the question, what if he didn’t get hurt?
Just how good was Chien-Ming Wang?
Before we get into what could have been, we must dive into how good Wang was before the injury. Wang was signed as an amateur free agent in 2000 and made his MLB debut in 2005. Everything for Wang really took off in 2006. Wang wasn’t your typical strikeout pitcher, he was the complete opposite. Wang had a hard sinker that was in the upper 90’s and was almost impossible to hit out of the ballpark. In his first full season with the Yankees, Wang was finally able to show the Yankees just how good he was when he pitched to a 19-6 record and had a 3.63 ERA.
In 218 innings, Wang only gave up 12 home runs and walked 52 hitters for a BB/9 of 2.1. However, he only recorded 76 strikeouts. Nonetheless, that great season resulted in the right-hander finishing in second place in the AL CY young voting. Wang followed up his great 2006 season with a very similar season in 2007. In 2007, Wang pitched to a 19-7 record with a 3.70 ERA. In 199 innings, Wang only gave up nine home runs and walked only 59 batters. His strikeouts were also up in 2007 as he recorded 104. But in 2008, it all came crashing down.
In a June game in Houston against the Astros, Wang suffered a foot injury running the bases. He ended up tearing a ligament and a muscle in his foot and missed the rest of the year. Wang was able to return in time for the 2009 season but clearly wasn’t the same pitcher as after three starts he was 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA. It was clear that the foot injury was affecting Wang and it was also clear that he was changing his mechanics to compensate for the foot. His sinker pre-injury was 95-98 but after the foot injury, it was 90-92. Wang would end up going on the DL in June that year for shoulder soreness and would end up getting surgery. 2009 was his last season with the Yankees as he would be out of the league because of his shoulder injury until 2011.
It was clear that Wang was never the same after the foot injury and it really makes you think about how good he could have been if it hadn’t been for that injury.