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(Photo by Stephen Green)
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The Cubs are hoping to close out the first series of 2013 with a win, as Travis Wood takes the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park Thursday afternoon. The 26-year-old left-hander is entering his fourth major league season, his second with the Cubs.
Though his 4.27 ERA in 2012 was below major league average, the coaching staff worked with Wood on developing a system to attack both sides of the plate. Today’s game will be a sneak peek at what he has to offer the rebuilt pitching staff this season.
Wood should also benefit the batting order, as he’s one of the better hitting pitchers on the team. Last year, he hit .189 with three doubles, one home run and four RBI. He has hit one home run in each of his three major league seasons.
Wood is one of several pitchers profiled in Vine Line’s 2013 Pitching Preview, available in the April issue, on sale now. We’ll be posting pitching profiles throughout the month, so be sure to check back to see what’s in store on the mound for 2013.
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): 4-seam (90), 2-seam (89), Cutter (88), Change (80), Slider (80), Curve (75)
2012 Stats: 156 IP, 18.3 K%, 7.9 UBB%, 4.27 ERA, 92 ERA+, 1.20 WHIP
Last Season: Finding Control
Wood started the season in Triple-A to iron out command issues but quickly played himself into a useful bottom-of-the-rotation piece. Though his 4.27 ERA was a shade below major league average, his season suffered from three horrible July starts (22 ER, 9 HR, 15.2 IP). He is a true fly ball pitcher, but he experienced a huge jump in home runs per fly (from about 6 percent in 2010-11 to 12 percent in 2012) largely due to those three games. He’ll hope to lower that HR/FB rate this year through better luck and execution.
Plan of Attack: Use Both Sides of the Plate
Working with the Cubs coaching staff, Wood developed an entirely new way to attack hitters last year, using a backdoor, arm-side cutter against righties for the first time. Wood is a six-pitch pitcher who leans heavily on his hard stuff, throwing about 75 percent fastballs against both right- and left-handed hitters. But there’s still a significant difference within the hard/soft mix. He throws many more two-seam and cut fastballs against righties, which fade away and run in, respectively. He then builds in a change-up to keep hitters off balance. Against lefties, Wood looks to leverage the velocity, location and deception on his four-seam fastball. When he gets ahead in the count, he goes to his slider, which dives away from lefties.
Putaway Pitch: Fastball
While his slider and change-up get the most whiffs, Wood’s four-seam fastball really brings him home with two strikes. It’s a low-90s pitch that he can either locate away from lefties or elevate over the plate to get righties to chase.
*Numbers courtesy Brooks Baseball