Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Updated: April 17, 1:34 AM ET
Hard to find reason for optimism on Wang

ESPN.com

G Fiume/Getty Images

Chien-Ming Wang has struggled mightily so far this season, posting an 0-2 record with a 28.93 ERA.

WANG NEEDS TO FIGURE OUT LOCATION

By Rick Sutcliffe, ESPN

It's very early in the season, but it's fairly apparent something is wrong with Chien-Ming Wang. It seems to me that he has lost his sinker. This is a guy that, at one time, had one of the best fastballs in the game.

There was so much movement on that pitch. He could go out and just throw fastballs and get people out by changing speeds. So far this season, it doesn't seem to be there. He doesn't seem to have the confidence to let that fastball go. The velocity is there, but the location and the movement are off. That's a bad combination. He could get away with bad location if he still had that tilt to his sinker. It makes me wonder about the foot injury he suffered a year ago.

Solid feet are so important for pitchers and hitters. That's your foundation and your balance. It also impacts your confidence and strength. I don't know whether it's still bothering him, but that is the first thing I thought as I've watched him struggle on the mound so far this season (0-2, 28.93 ERA),

He used to be so consistent with his fastball. We have yet to see that consistency this year. Keep an eye on the catcher's mitt. When a big league pitcher is healthy and firing on all cylinders, the catcher's glove won't move seven or eight times out of 10 on a fastball. But when a guy isn't healthy, one of the first signs is that glove moving all over the place to catch the pitch.

Chatter Up! Mailbag
Have an opinion on any and all things baseball? Send it in here. Our team of analysts wants you to send in your questions, comments and analysis for possible use on the air.

Your comments from the mailbag will fill an entire segment called "Chatter Up!" on "Baseball Tonight" and be read on ESPN's "Wednesday Night Baseball."
As a pitcher, if you don't have confidence in your base, you are in trouble. You really can't finish anything. The key to a good sinker is you have to rotate it. Just like you would on a breaking ball. You try to get enough spin on it, and to do that, you've got to have a solid foundation.

Given all that, it's still very early. He has had just two starts. Everybody asked me about CC Sabathia after his rough first start; he's going to be fine. Sabathia didn't have a great debut and he'll have other bad outings from time to time, but the majority of his starts will be good. With Wang, the scary part to me is how he hurt his foot last year. He was just running. That's something you have to be concerned about. Not only are there interleague games on the schedule when he will be forced to bat and probably run again but he also needs to be able to field his position effectively, which includes covering first base and backing up home.

If I were seeing that good sinker, I'd say he'd be fine. Right now, you can't say that. I'm a lot more concerned about Wang than about Sabathia, who starts Thursday in the official opener of new Yankee Stadium.

Wang is a critical part of the Yankees' big ambitions this season. With Alex Rodriguez out with an injury, the pitching has to be solid. Yes, the Yankees added Sabathia and A.J. Burnett this offseason, but it's the back end of the rotation that really separates them from the rest of the league. Their Nos. 3, 4 and 5 guys are better than anybody else's. If they are healthy, that is. A lot of teams can match up 1-2, but how many teams have a 19-game winner as their third starter? Time will tell whether Wang has a shot at 19 wins again this year but right now I'm not betting on it.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: April 14 | April 13 | April 12 | April 9 | April 8

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
M. Cabrera, Det4CWSContrerasBot 6: 0-0, 0 Outs. None on.
S. Smith, Col2ChCHardenTop 3: 2-2, 1 Outs. None on.
M. Lowell, Bos2OakAndersonTop 2: 1-0, 2 Outs. 1 on.
M. Jacobs, KC2CleLewisBot 8: 2-1, 1 Outs. None on.
M. Reynolds, Ari2StLPineiroBot 3: 1-0, 2 Outs. 1 on.

The complete list of Wednesday's homers

ON DECK: THURSDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Indians at Yankees

CC Sabathia didn't open the season well. Will he open new Yankee Stadium the same way? Sabathia lost on Opening Day, rebounded with a win in his second start and now has the task of throwing out the first official pitches in the new ballpark. The Indians just hope the Cliff Lee from last year makes an appearance soon after two poor starts to open the year.

Blue Jays at Twins

Roy Halladay has started the season like, well, Roy Halladay. He has won both outings, posted a 3.86 ERA and struck out nine against three walks. Francisco Liriano, meanwhile, has started out like, well, how Francisco Liriano started out last year. He is 0-2 through two starts and toting a 6.94 ERA.

Cardinals at Cubs

The Cardinals are off to a quick start, opening with a 7-3 mark. Could they be the team that challenges the Cubs in the NL Central? Well, here is St. Louis' first crack at making a statement. Chicago might want to pay attention to Ryan Ludwick, who hit a homer and drove in three in Wednesday's win against Arizona and is hitting .407 so far this year. Oh yeah, the Cubs also might want to pay attention to Albert Pujols. Just a suggestion.

For the rest of Thursday's schedule, click here.

BBTN ON THE AIR: THURSDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
9:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analyst: Tim Kurkjian, Eric Young, Orestes Destrade
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analyst: Tim Kurkjian, Eric Young, Orestes Destrade

BBTN MINUTE: DISABLED LIST DILEMMAS

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at Ian Kinsler's wild night and compares it to how the Rangers' second baseman was swinging the bat on the days leading up to Wednesday's cycle, in which Kinsler went 6-for-6:

Ian Kinsler
April 10-14 Wednesday
BA .278 1.000
Hits 5 6
HR 1 1
RBI 3 4
Total bases 7 13

WEB GEMS

WEDNESDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Ian Kinsler• Not even close. Ian Kinsler had a night to remember, hitting for the cycle on a 6-for-6 night in the Rangers' 19-6 drubbing of the Orioles. Kinsler drove home four runs and scored five in becoming the fifth player in club history to hit for the cycle.
Clayton Kershaw• So it wasn't quite as jaw-dropping as Kinsler's night, but Clayton Kershaw came pretty close. The Dodgers lefty allowed one hit -- a solo homer to Bengie Molina -- over seven innings and struck out 13 Giants' hitters. The total was easily his career high -- before Wednesday, Kershaw had never posted a double-digit strikeout game. The Dodgers' bullpen, though, couldn't take care of the lead and cost Kershaw a win.
WORST
Mark Hendrickson• Somebody had to give up all those hits to Kinsler and the Rangers, right? Four Baltimore pitchers were guilty, with Mark Hendrickson starting the trouble. Over the first 3 2/3 innings, Hendrickson gave up seven hits, nine runs and four walks.
Rich HardenRich Harden didn't last very long in the Cubs' 5-2 loss against the Rockies. Sure, he struck out eight in three innings, but he also walked four. With his pitch count at 92 and the Cubs trailing 4-0, Harden's day was done after just those three innings.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Cliff Lee hasn't looked anything like a Cy Young winner in his first two starts of this season. Lee, who went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA last year and won the AL Cy Young, is 0-2 with a 9.90 ERA. He has allowed 11 earned runs in his two starts and has failed to throw more than five innings in either start. Lee's problem has been with his fastball:

Hitters vs. Cliff Lee's fastball
2008 2009
BA .266 .483
SLG .362 .724
Swing-and-miss pct. 16.1 10.9

If Lee is to get back on track and look like last season's Cliff Lee, he'll need to get back to throwing his fastball effectively. If he fails to get command of the pitch, it could be a long season.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF THURSDAY'S GAMES

AJ Mass examines the 10 games on Thursday's slate.

Fantasy Mass ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Thursday. Daily Notes