It’s hard to believe that we’re only three seasons removed from Travis Wood being just about the only thing worth watching in the Cubs rotation. You’d probably forgotten that, haven’t you? 2013 when Wood was the Cubs All-Star rep? When he managed an ERA of 3.11 and that was like, as good as we could have it back then? What a long, strange trip it’s been, no? Fast forward to now, and it gets stranger as Wood is kind of transforming into the player he was traded for, and that’s Sean Marshall. A barely hanging-on starter that becomes a true weapon out of the pen… before going to Cincinnati and falling off the face of the Earth. We don’t know that’s going to happen to Wood, but the first part of the equation is certainly applicable.
Travis Wood’s 2015
54 appearances (9 starts)/100.2 innings/10.55 K per 9/3.49 BB per 9/0.98 HR per 9/.300 BABIP/70.5 LOB%/34.5 GB%/10.0 HR per FB%/3.64 ERA/3.40 FIP/1.3 WAR
Much like the preview before, you do have to separate out Wood’s numbers as a reliever from his brief stint as a starter. As a reliever that ERA drops to 2.59 and his average against is .207. His K-rate goes to 11 (yes, making that joke), and his FIP drops to 2.53. So yes, you could say that he was utterly dominant as a reliever, though he walked a few too many guys for that.
Much like Warren, a move to the pen saw a jump in Wood’s velocity, from 89 MPH to somewhere around 91 MPH. By the end of last year he was throwing 92 MPH, which doesn’t sound like much but from the left side any sort of velocity ends up being a highly valued commodity. Moving to the pen also changed how Wood attacked hitters in a pretty violent way. In his first six weeks as a starter, Wood threw his fastball just about a third of the time. Come September, he was throwing it almost two-thirds of the time. And the thing was, not many could hit it, as from June on hitters had a .182 average against it.
More encouragingly, in a way at least, is that Wood was just as effective against lefties as he was righties, hence he wasn’t restricted to just being a LOOGY (and doesn’t really come with the breaking stuff to be one anyway). Both sides of the plate hit him at a .227 clip, he struck them out at the same rate, though righties got him for 10 homers where only one lefty was able to go out beyond the wall on him.
As for 2016, you wonder just how creative Immortan Joe Maddon wants to get. Because with Wood, Cahill, and Warren, he has three relievers who can go multiple innings if they’r not needed to spot in the rotation too often. Combined with Strop, Rondon, Grimm, a healthy Ramirez who will only be asked to go one inning, and Richard who’ll only be asked to go one batter, he has the tools to keep those guys from getting overworked. Would he have these three, instead of throwing one inning 3-4 times a week, throw two innings 2-3 times a week? Would that happen? It would depend on how many multi-run leads or deficits the Cubs are carrying, but it certainly feels a way the Cubs can keep their late-inning guys from piling up 75+ appearances, or to keep their starters fresh for October (four of them are over 30, remember). You get the feeling this is something Maddon and the front office want to try. And given Wood’s effectiveness last year, it’s certainly worth a look early in the season.
But again, it’s a bullpen. There’s nothing guaranteeing that Wood can repeat his 2015. This is why they tell you the best laid plans of mice and men aft gang agley.Whatever that means.
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