Dave Duncan could fix Chien-Ming Wang

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Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan
said Chien-Ming Wang, who was non-tendered by the Yankees on Saturday,
intrigues him as a free agent,
reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.



Wang likely won’t be able to
contribute until next May as he recovers from shoulder surgery, and he
hasn’t pitched a full season since 2007, but when his sinker is on,
Wang is one of the most dominant wormkillers in the game (60.1% career
groundball rate, though it has declined over the past two seasons).
That Duncan sees an opportunity to right Wang shouldn’t surprise anyone.




The Cardinals are currently preparing themselves for life after free agent Joel Pineiro. Under the
tutelage of Duncan, the 31-year-old right-hander was 15-12 with a 3.49
ERA and 1.14 WHIP in ’09, posting a career-best 60.5% groundball rate.
Pineiro didn’t just enjoy his best professional season in 2009, he was
a completely reformed pitcher, leading the majors with 448
groundballs and the National League with 29 double-play grounders. With
Brad Penny already under contract, there’s a strong possibility that
Pineiro signs a lucrative multi-year contract elsewhere.




Wang, who has a more-established
track record as a groundball pitcher, would be a cheap alternative to
Pineiro, even if he won’t contribute immediately. Common thinking is
that Wang will join Joe Torre in Los Angeles, but if he truly wants to
resurrect his career, St. Louis may be his best choice.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.