The time has come to name the final player to our All-Supernova squad. We’ll do a rundown of the full roster and announce the lineup in tomorrow’s article that will wrap up this series, but first we must pick a right-handed starter to pair alongside Jimmy Key.
On the southpaws’ side, the choices went back to different eras of the 20th century in Key and Page. Betances will be joined by another pitcher from the 21st ceiling. A pioneer whose peak, like with several of our selections, was cut short due to injury.
The second choice for the Supernova rotation is late-2000s staff ace Chien-Ming Wang.
Career NYY stats: 55-26, 4.16 ERA, 670.1 IP, 107 ERA+, 3.99 FIP, 1.33 WHIP, 2nd place AL Cy Young finish
Baseball is a major sport in Taiwan, but up until the arrival of Chien-Ming Wang in the Bronx, there hadn’t been a Taiwanese player with that much success in the big leagues. The tall right-hander became a huge hit in his homeland because of that.
Wang started generating a lot of interest as an amateur and signed with the New York Yankees in 2000. It’d take a while for Wang to find his footing, but he started turning heads after a strong ‘04 campaign in Triple-A in which he threw 149.1 innings with a 3.50 ERA. It was there in Columbus through the help of pitching coach Nick Allen that Wang developed the pitch that would make his major league career — the sinker.
Wang was called up in 2005, at virtually the same time as Robinson Canó, to help a Yankees team that had gotten off to a poor start. The Yankees went on a run and by the end of the season, Wang had established himself as one of the staples of that rotation with a 105 ERA+ and 2.3 WAR in 116.1 innings.
The rookie even performed admirably with 6.2 innings of one-run ball in Game 2 of the ALDS, despite taking the loss for that effort. Over the next two seasons, Wang would go on to establish himself as the No. 1 arm for the Yankees.
2006-07: 38-13, 63 starts, 3.67 ERA, 3 CG, 123 ERA+, 1.30 WHIP
Wang missed out on the Cy Young award with a second-place finish in 2006, but a certain fellow named Johan Santana enjoyed his prime throughout that era, so we can hardly fault him for that. Although the Yankees fell short in the postseason, Wang opened the playoff series in both 2006 and 2007, speaking to his importance in that staff.
That sinker that Wang picked up in the minors became his go-to weapon, the primary pitch of his arsenal generated a ton of weak contact, and the Taiwanese star thrived inducing groundballs for days.
In recent memory, pitchers’ health became a point of emphasis when talking about the universal DH, and although one can’t completely avoid freak injuries, you can limit the opportunities for them to happen. Many look at what happened with Adam Wainwright, who missed a full season after an accident that could’ve been prevented with the universal DH, but let us not forget Wang.
In 2008, Wang tore a ligament on his right foot while rounding third during a game in Houston, and he was never the same after that. He would go on to miss the rest of the season and even after coming back in 2009, he didn’t feel 100 percent. Wang’s velocity went down, which led him to compensate and screw with his mechanics. Then came the shoulder injuries.
After a few years in the majors with the Nats and Blue Jays, Wang would bounce around from town to town in minor league ball, hoping for a comeback that never truly came. There’s a great article about him on MLB.com that covers a documentary named “Late Life: The Story of Chien-Ming Wang.” It culminated on his brief, but triumphant return to a major league mound in 2016 with the Kansas City Royals. He posted a solid 102 ERA+ in 53.1 innings out of the bullpen at age 36, and that was the end of his too-brief career.
Chien-Ming Wang was the third Taiwanese player to play in MLB, but his performance in the Bronx, even if for a limited time, meant that he became a national icon. We can only wonder about what could’ve been, but also acknowledge what he was and meant to a nation.