Results tagged ‘ Travis Wood ’
How do you evaluate a 96-loss season? It depends on how you look at it.
Are you evaluating just the major league team or the organization as a whole? Your answers would likely be very different.
On the surface, things don’t look too good. For the second straight year, the Cubs languished in the basement of a stacked NL Central that sent three teams to the 2013 postseason. The offense consistently struggled to put runs on the board, the bullpen faltered early in the season, several key players failed to develop as expected, and manager Dale Sveum was released after two seasons at the helm. To hear General Manager Jed Hoyer tell it, that’s simply not going to cut it.
“One of the things about this job is that your report card is in the paper every morning,” Hoyer said. “Obviously, that report card tells us we’re not good enough. We’re not talented enough at the major league level, and we have to improve that.”
Despite the struggles in Chicago—and both President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and Hoyer are quick to admit they’re disappointed by the win-loss total—the front office has never wavered from its initial blueprint for building a consistent winner.
When Epstein and Hoyer took over in October 2011, there was a severe talent deficit in the minor league system, and the major league team was saddled with expensive, aging players. The goal was to stockpile as much young talent as possible as quickly as possible and create payroll flexibility to ensure that the next time the team is competitive, it has a chance to remain competitive for years to come.
On that front, things don’t look bad at all. In 2009, Baseball America ranked the Cubs 27th in its annual organizational talent rankings. By the start of 2013, they had moved up to 12th. Thanks to shrewd trades, some aggressive international signings and a strong 2013 draft, headlined by overall No. 2 pick Kris Bryant, most experts agree the Cubs system is firmly in the top five heading into 2014. And 11 of the organization’s top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com, were acquired since the new front office took over in 2011. That’s a lot of progress in a few short years.
This month, we sat down with the Cubs’ GM for a frank conversation about the state of the organization. There is great reason for optimism, but the wave of young standouts developing in the farm system has yet to crest at Wrigley Field. Until that top-notch talent arrives, it’s imperative the Cubs find a way to improve their bullpen and generate more quality at-bats.
“The amount of talent and the athleticism we have [in the system] is a long, long way from where it was when we first got here, and we’re excited about that,” Hoyer said. “But all those things don’t hide the fact that the goal is to get better at the major league level, and we need to improve on what we’ve done in 2012 and 2013.”
We also talked to one of the key pieces Hoyer acquired last offseason that fits this new organizational philosophy—outfielder Nate Schierholtz. The 29-year-old veteran finally got a chance to play regularly in 2013, and he had a breakout season, with career highs in plate appearances, home runs and RBI. Everybody, from the front office to his teammates, says the same thing about Schierholtz: He’s a professional ballplayer who fights for every at-bat and brings his best effort every day.
Finally, despite the win-loss total, there were plenty of positive developments at the major league level. The Cubs strengthened their pitching depth behind the emergence of lefty Travis Wood, ace Jeff Samardzija continued to miss bats with the best of them, Junior Lake made a surprisingly successful major league debut, and the left side of the infield was as strong defensively as any in baseball. We examine several impressive stats from the 2013 campaign that should bode well for the organization’s near future.
If you want to get to know the future of the organization now, follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline. All winter long, we’ll be following the Cubs’ top prospects in the fall and winter leagues. And pick up the November issue of Vine Line today.
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
It’s all in a day’s work for Cubs All-Star Travis Wood (7-7, 2.79 ERA). The left-hander notched his 18th quality start of the season Sunday, pitching 7.0 innings and giving up only four hits and no earned runs, to lead the Cubs to a 2-1 victory over the Giants. He also went 2-for-3 at the plate to raise his batting average to .293 and blasted his third home run of the year. The Cubs finished their 10-game West Coast trip against the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Giants 6-4.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Left-handed starter Travis Wood will represent the Cubs in the 2013 All-Star Game Tuesday night. Even though Wood threw on Sunday, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said the 26-year-old is available to pitch tonight at NL manager Bruce Bochy’s discretion.
Wood, who has a 6-6 record this year, has quickly emerged as one of baseball’s toughest left-handers. He’s compiled a 2.79 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP—both good for top 10 in the NL—and a league-best 17 quality starts over 122.2 innings pitched. It’s Wood’s first All-Star selection.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Travis Wood’s 2013 campaign has been nothing short of incredible. On the mound this season, the 26-year-old southpaw is 5-3 with a 2.75 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 72 innings. But it’s what he’s done in the batter’s box that has really captured Cubs fans’ attention.
The right-handed hitter owns a .292/.320/.583 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line with a pair of homers and seven RBI. In the fourth inning of Thursday’s tilt with the White Sox, Wood ripped a Jake Peavy cutter into the left-field stands for a grand slam, propelling the North Siders to an 8-3 win.
The grand slam was the first by a Cubs pitcher at Wrigley Field since Burt Hooten accomplished the feat in 1972.
And Wood isn’t the only pitcher on the staff who’s having success at the plate. According to Elias, the 19 RBI by Cubs pitchers in May is the most in a calendar month since the 1940 Tigers drove in 20. Wood (7) and fellow starter Scott Feldman (6) alone each have more RBI than any other pitching staff. Also, the pitching staff has produced more RBI this month than the Cubs No. 3 hitters (17), and they have matched the total from the No. 4 spot (19).
Carlos Villanueva has been solid in the Cubs rotation. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Offensive woes and fielding mishaps have hijacked the headlines for the Cubs as the baseball season reaches the one-month mark. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the team has scored just 61 runs, 13th in the National League. And considering how much time has been spent reinforcing the basics in the last few years, it’s even more surprising that the defense has committed 17 errors in 18 games, second most in the NL. Those stats will need to improve if the team hopes to do better than the 59 wins they managed last season.
But there is some cause for optimism in Chicago thanks to a surprisingly dominant starting rotation.
The starting five as whole has a 3.11 ERA, .208 opponent batting average, 1.15 WHIP and 98 strikeouts over 110 innings. Those numbers are good for third, first, tied for first and fourth respectively.
The front five has thrown a total of 110 innings, sixth most in the NL. Because of the struggles in the bullpen (4.86 ERA, 12th in the NL), manager Dale Sveum has had his starters throw 68.8 percent of all pitches this season, the fourth highest percentage in the NL. Also, Cubs arms have managed to keep the ball on the ground 52.2 percent of the time, while allowing a home run on just 10 percent of all fly balls, good for second and fifth, respectively.
When you look at how the starters have fared individually, these stats should come as no surprise. Newcomer Carlos Villanueva carries a 1.03 ERA—top 10 for starters in the NL—into Tuesday night’s start. Despite throwing a fastball that clocks in at just 87 mph, the veteran has managed to fan 15 batters over 21 innings, walking just four.
Southpaw Travis Wood has a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings. The 26-year-old has gone at least six innings in all four appearances this year, including solid outings against the offensive-minded Brewers, Rangers and Reds.
After a solid 2012, staff ace Jeff Samardzija is trying to establish himself as one of the game’s elite this season. Though his 3.38 ERA could be lower at this point in the year, his 31 strikeouts over 26.2 innings are good for third in the NL. That puts him in the same company as perennial All-Stars Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright. Add in prized free agent Edwin Jackson and his 24 Ks over 22.1 innings, and it looks like the staff is in good shape.
And let’s not forget that the rotation isn’t even at full strength. Former ace Matt Garza is scheduled to return from a strained lat in early May, and free agent acquisition Scott Baker could be ready to go shortly after the All-Star break. If the offense warms up and the Cubs can find someone to get the last three outs, they have a good chance to improve on last season’s win total.
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is a force offensively as well as with the glove. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Once the clear leaders of the AL West and back-to-back Junior Circuit champions, the Rangers now have plenty of company in their division. The Angels have loaded up through free agency two winters in a row, and the A’s shocked baseball by upsetting the Rangers for the division title last fall. But Texas will be able to dip into a perennially deep farm system thanks to one of the game’s premier scouting operations. They come to Chicago in an early season Interleague matchup due to the new 15-team alignment in each league.
Cubs batters will face a challenge getting the ball past the left side of the infield thanks to two of the game’s best glovemen: third baseman Adrian Beltre and shortstop Elvis Andrus. Both have great range, smooth hands and outstanding arms. Beltre, of course, adds in a .300-average, 30-homer stick that makes him an annual MVP candidate, while Andrus has improved offensively across the board in the last couple of seasons. Homegrown players stock the right side of the infield, with second baseman Ian Kinsler and first baseman Mitch Moreland. Regular DH (and former Astro and Cardinal) Lance Berkman could spot at first base or in the corner outfield this series.
With the departure of Josh Hamilton, there’s more pressure on left fielder David Murphy to double up on his breakout 2012 season, on right fielder Nelson Cruz to stave off further decline, and on center fielder Leonys Martin to grab hold of the position after being inked to a five-year deal out of Cuba.
The Cubs will see a few familiar faces behind the dish: former friend Geovany Soto and former foe A.J. Pierzynski. The latter joined the Rangers as a free agent after eight years on the South Side. Former Cub Jeff Baker also has a bench spot and may poke his head out against Travis Wood or other lefties.
The Cubs will miss right-hander Yu Darvish and the assortment of pitches that dazzled for 26 straight outs against the Astros two weeks ago. But they’ll still catch a homegrown trio with plenty of stuff: inconsistent left-hander Derek Holland, 2010 fifth-rounder Justin Grimm and reliever-turned-starter Alexi Ogando. Expect a lot of easy cheese on Thursday when Ogando takes on Jeff Samardzija. In the bullpen, the Rangers pair a couple of sophomore setup guys, Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers, with veteran closer Joe Nathan.
Friday, April 5—LHP Derek Holland (0-1, 2.40) vs. LHP Travis Wood (1-0, 1.46)
Saturday, April 6—RHP Justin Grimm (0-0, 4.50) vs. RHP Carlos Villanueva (0-0, 0.64)
Sunday, April 7—RHP Alexi Ogando (2-0, 1.08) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 2.75)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty)
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen can’t reach Nate Schierholtz’s ninth-inning, two-run blast, which carried the Cubs to a 3-2 victory—and an opening series win—over the Pirates at PNC Park. Lefty starter Travis Wood (1-0) pitched a gem, giving up one hit over six scoreless innings.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Other Pitching Profiles:
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
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty images)
On Thursday afternoon, manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio announced the Cubs rotation for the first week of the regular season. Right-hander Jeff Samardzija will get the nod on Opening Day, April 1, at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
“That’s what I signed up for,” Samardzija said. “If you don’t want those expectations for yourself, then you may as well go play somewhere else. That’s just kind of a given. There’s going to be pressure, and there’s going to be a lot riding on what you do.”
Samardzija came into last season just hoping to land a spot in the rotation after a successful 2011 in the bullpen. This year, most see the Shark as a front-of-the-rotation guy and a possible ace. He commands five pitches and was third in the league in average fastball velocity last season. His four-seamer clocked in at 95.9 mph, and his two-seamer averaged 95.4 mph.
He’ll be followed in the first week by righty Edwin Jackson, lefty Travis Wood, righty Scot Feldman and righty Carlos Villanueva.
Jackson, who signed a four-year, $52 million contract this offseason, will get the start in the Cubs home opener April 8 against the division rival Brewers.
Both Matt Garza and offseason acquisition Scott Baker will miss the start of the season recovering from injuries.