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Quick Look: Wei-Chung Wang sharp in debut series

The lefty last appeared in the majors in 2017.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s debuted a new player this week against the Angels. Wei-Chung Wang had already pitched in the majors before, for the Brewers in 2014 and then again in 2017, but this was his first time donning the green and gold. He was signed as a minor league free agent last winter.

Wang made history before he even threw a pitch, by becoming the first Taiwanese-born player in A’s franchise history. He’s one of 15 Taiwanese players in MLB history.

The left-hander appeared in two games against the Angels. On Tuesday, he entered in the 5th inning with the A’s trailing, and he threw two scoreless frames, needing just 23 pitches to retire six of his seven batters. On Wednesday, he entered in the eighth, again with Oakland behind, and this time he worked around a weak single for another scoreless inning on 14 pitches. His total line:

Wang, vs LAA: 3 ip, 0 runs, 1 K, 0 BB, 2 hits

The Halos only hit one ball hard against him, when David Fletcher lined a sharp double to right-center. The other hit was by Shohei Ohtani, but it was tapped slowly through the infield — he did well to make contact on the slider, but it was still lucky that it found a hole.

The 27-year-old Wang showed a three-pitch arsenal:

  • Fastball, 91-92 mph
  • Slider, mid-80s
  • Changeup, 83-85

The Statcast data is a bit difficult to work with, because it mistakenly registered one of his innings as all sliders.

Wang mostly worked up in the zone with his fastball, seeming to go for the upper-corners on each side. His control wasn’t pinpoint, but when he missed it was usually by enough to not leave a meatball over the plate — except for the one to Fletcher, which was deposited to the base of the wall.

The fastball set up a slider that he seemed to have decent command of. It wasn’t a swing-and-miss pitch, but when he placed it on his glove-side edge of the plate (which he did often) it induced weak contact every time it was hit. Sometimes it was up in the zone but it still proved effective there, though of course if it were to be left out over the plate at that height then it would presumably be quite hittable.

Even better was the changeup, which faded toward his arm-side. The change got Jonathan Lucroy to reach for a foul on Tuesday and a groundout on Wednesday, and I’m not certain but I think it also earned a whiff from Luis Rengifo on Tuesday for Wang’s only strikeout (in the inning mislabeled by Statcast) — one way or other, that was the only swinging strike he induced out of his 37 offerings.

Overall, Wang seemed to throw his fastball and slider with similar frequency (+40% each), with only a few changeups mixed in. We’ll get a better idea of the breakdown when the sample size increases and Statcast corrects itself to distinguish between the two.

Wang wasn’t overpowering, and there’s not a lot of margin for error with his stuff, but he got the job done efficiently and I could see his changeup helping him stay competitive against righties. If he pans out then he could be a valuable presence as the elusive second lefty that Oakland couldn’t find all of last year, with the bonus ability to go multiple innings at a time. Stay tuned to see how he does in his next outings against different lineups, and whether he can stick on the team long-term!