Results tagged ‘ Travis Wood ’

Series 5 Preview: Rangers at Cubs

Beltre

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.

rangers_at_cubsCubs 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.


[PROBABLE PITCHERS]

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)

—Sean Ahmed

1000 Words: Schierholtz blast lifts Cubs to series win

Cutch

(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.

2013 Pitching Profile: Travis Wood

WOOD-T-080112-SG-01

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Other Pitching Profiles:

RHP Edwin Jackson


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.

Travis Wood*
Repertoire (Avg. MPH):
4-seam (90), 2-seam (89), Cutter (88), Change (80), Slider (80), Curve (75)
Age: 26
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

—Sean Ahmed

Samardzija gets Opening Day nod, E-Jax set for home opener

Samardzija_146704788_Getty_NormHall_CC

(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.

Spring Training Preview: The Starting Five

GARZA-M-063012

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Finally, baseball is back. As pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is nearing.

And to get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five groups—starting pitching, relief pitching, infielders, outfielders and catchers—to give people a clearer picture of what the team could look like when it breaks camp and heads to Chicago.

Below is the starting rotation preview. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.


If everyone stays healthy—always a big if—the Cubs will have an abundance of starting pitching for the first time in a while. Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Jeff Samardzija are locks for the rotation, while Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva will battle for the final two spots. Baker, who has a 63-48 career record, underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Though he may be ready come Opening Day, the Cubs’ depth allows them to be patient with his return.

Garza’s rehab from the elbow issues that knocked him out for the final two months of 2012 appears to be on schedule, and he’s been adamant that he’ll be ready by April. A healthy Garza could build on his impressive 2011 season, in which he had a career-best 3.32 ERA and 197 strikeouts. The Cubs’ surplus of starting pitching makes the idea of parting with Garza in a trade for prospects slightly easier to stomach. That’s certainly a possibility, either in March when he’s proven he’s healthy or at the July trade deadline.

Jackson’s acquisition provides the team with a reliable innings-eater—he’s made at least 31 starts and tossed at least 180 innings in each of the last five seasons—a wildly underappreciated skill. Any manager who’s had to overuse his bullpen, like the Cubs have the past few seasons, will tell you how much he appreciates having a pitcher he can rely on to deliver six quality innings every fifth day.

Feldman and Wood both have the ability to be competent starters, and Villanueva showed flashes of brilliance last season, including an impressive 22.9 percent strikeout rate and 6.7 percent walk rate in 92 innings as a starter. However, he has yet to prove he can deliver those numbers over 160-plus innings.

The real breakout star in the rotation may be Samardzija, whose road to this point has been bumpy. In the span of two seasons, Samardzija has gone from failed prospect, to reliable bullpen arm, to possible future ace, thanks to his dogged work ethic and electric arm. Samardzija will have no innings limit in 2013, so it’s a good bet he’ll take another step forward and become the anchor for a rotation that has the potential to be the team’s strength.

Cubs Convention kicks off next Friday

CONVENTION-EPSTEIN-SESSION-011412-SG-47

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Ready to get the 2013 baseball season started? The Cubs campaign kicks off next weekend, Jan. 18-20, at the 28th Annual Cubs Convention, held for the first time at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown Chicago. The event will feature more than 75 current, past and future Cubs players and coaches, and will offer more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities.

The Opening Ceremony begins on Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m., and will feature player and alumni introductions on a red carpet runway that will offer special VIP access to children 16 and under. Following the Opening Ceremony, guests will find some of their favorite Cubs throughout the hotel for an exciting Autograph Hunt Game. The evening will conclude with longtime Cubs Convention favorite Cubs Bingo, led by Wayne Messmer, as well as a live radio broadcast of WGN Sports Night.

Saturday’s program continues the gaming fun with the return of Cubs Jeopardy, which pits alumni pitchers Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe against alumni position players Jose Cardenal, Jody Davis, Randy Hundley and Todd Walker. Cubs Family Feud makes its Cubs Convention debut Saturday afternoon, as Cubs alumni Bobby Dernier, Jon Lieber, Gary Matthews and Billy Williams take on current Cubs Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Brett Jackson and Ian Stewart.

Fans can meet many of the club’s offseason acquisitions—including pitchers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Edwin Jackson; catcher Dioner Navarro; and outfielder Nate Schierholtz—at the Meet the New Cubs session hosted by new television analyst Jim Deshaies and play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper.

Additional Saturday sessions include:

  • Ricketts Family Forum—Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts speak with Len Kasper and fans about their experience as team owners over the past three years.
  • Meet Cubs Baseball Management—President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush, Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum speak about the club’s recent moves and what lies ahead for the 2013 season.
  • From Draft Day to the Big Leagues—Cubs minor league prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych discuss what it’s like to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs and advance through the minor leagues.
  • Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff—The Cubs manager, bench coach Jamie Quirk, hitting coach James Rowson, assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, bullpen boach Lester Strode, first base coach Dave McKay and third base coach David Bell speak with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies about what’s in store during the staff’s second year.
  • For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care—A unique Q&A session where kids ask the questions to Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
  • Renew Wrigley Field—Cubs executives discuss ideas to preserve and renew iconic Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, season ticket holders and the community.
  • Not for Women Only—Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell, and Travis Wood discuss their personal sides and lives off the field.
  • WGN Radio’s Sports Central—This live broadcast with WGN Radio’s Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski will feature segments with David DeJesus and Matt Garza; Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.

Sunday’s program features two panel sessions to close out the Convention:

  • Down on the Farm—Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde will be joined by Cubs farmhands Chris Rusin and Josh Vitters to give a breakdown of the Cubs minor league teams from Iowa down to Mesa. Hosted by Vine Line editor Gary Cohen and broadcaster Dave Otto.
  • Stat Sundays—Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald offer insight into the statistics they analyze and feature during Stat Sundays throughout the season.

In addition to the sessions highlighted above, the Convention includes many new and returning activities throughout the weekend for fans:

Rookie of the Year Movie Night, presented by the Cubs Kids Club, makes its Cubs Convention debut. Fans can eat popcorn and relax with family and friends Saturday evening while watching the popular film, Rookie of the Year.

Walgreens Field is a new miniature turf diamond that gives kids a fun place to take practice batting, play pick-up wiffle ball games or participate in professional instructional clinics as part of the Baseball Interactive Zone. Cubs players and coaches will pair up with Illinois Baseball Academy instructors to conduct a series of training opportunities for fans of all ages throughout the weekend.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago is giving fans the chance to test their play-by-play broadcasting skills in a custom-built fantasy broadcasting booth. Guests will call a pre-recorded play in the booth, then download a recorded copy of their work for keeps.

MLB Network’s Strike Zone allows fans to test their arm speed and win prizes at an inflatable speed pitch.

The Sony PlayStation Gaming Zone gives attendees a chance to take a break from the action to play MLB 12 The Show at one of several Sony PS3 kiosks.

The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center returns with an area dedicated for families to exercise their creativity with the small building blocks.

American Girl’s Activity Area features activities inspired by American Girl dolls and the chance to win a new doll and book.

The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Kiosk lets fans have their picture taken for the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times with customizable headlines that make for a memorable souvenir.

Fans can learn about or contribute to the history of the Cubs franchise in collaboration with team archivists. Historical pieces of memorabilia will be on hand for viewing, and guests can receive professional tips on how to preserve their own valuable keepsakes. Attendees are invited to share their personal stories with a video crew, and they may be used in future promotions or publications.

Limited individual weekend passes for the 2013 Cubs Convention are still available for $60 per pass plus convenience fees. Visit www.cubs.com/convention or call 1-800-THE-CUBS. A percentage of the proceeds from the Cubs Convention benefits Chicago Cubs Charities. To date, Cubs Convention has raised approximately $4 million for Chicago Cubs Charities.

Cubs 2013 ZiPs projections unveiled

CASTRO S

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Each year, sabermetric enthusiast Dan Szymborski compiles projected stats for the upcoming season for all major league players. Using an intricate formula, the computer-based projections, better known as ZiPS (sZymborski Projection System), give an estimate for most notable offensive and pitching categories. Late last week, Szymborski unveiled his projections for the 2013 Cubs.

It should come as no surprise that shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo are projected to make the biggest impact in 2013, each slated for a 4.0 WAR (wins above an average replacement player). Castro is projected to hit .294/.332/.446 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 homers, 12 triples, 24 stolen bases and 77 RBI. The slugging Rizzo rates out at .279/.349/.503, with 31 homers, 109 driven in and 32 doubles.

On the pitching side, Jeff Samardzija projects to be the best starter with a 3.1 WAR. He’s estimated to throw 169 innings, strike out 172 batters and record a 3.62 ERA.

According to Szymborski, newcomer Edwin Jackson should have an ERA around 3.91 over 186.2 innings and fan 159 hitters. His estimated WAR of 2.8 is slightly better than Matt Garza’s 2.7.

Projected WAR of starting pitching candidates:

Jeff Samardzija: 3.1
Edwin Jackson: 2.8
Matt Garza: 2.7
Scott Baker: 1.6
Carlos Villanueva: 1.4
Travis Wood: 1.3
Scott Feldman: 1.0

Projected WAR of starting lineup:

Starlin Castro: 4.0
Anthony Rizzo: 4.0
Darwin Barney: 2.3
Alfonso Soriano: 1.8
Welington Castillo: 1.6
David Dejesus: 1.1
Nate Schierholtz: 0.8
Ian Stewart: 0.4

1000 Words: Filling out the rotation

(Photo by Stephen Green)

With the Scott Baker signing last week and Tuesday’s acquisition of Scott Feldman, the trio of Jeff Samaradzija, Travis Wood and Matt Garza (from left) should have some proven company in the rotation for the start of the 2013 season.

Cubsgrafs: Turkey trot

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Whether you’re all about the tryptophan-induced football coma or you prefer bowling away the holidays with your family, we’ve got a bonus, Thanksgiving-themed edition of Cubsgrafs for you.

Let’s define a new toy stat—a “turkey”—based on the nickname given when a bowler rolls three strikes in a row. For baseball, we’ll tally a turkey each time a pitcher records a three-pitch strikeout. The results for the 2012 season, limited to Cubs with at least 20 innings, are below.

So who are the Cubs’ 2012 turkey champions? The answers may surprise you.

It turns out three relievers—Scott Maine, Shawn Camp and Alberto Cabrera—stood above the rest with more than 6 percent turkeys per batter faced. But it’s Camp who deserves special recognition for being so efficient with the strikeouts he did rack up. Nearly four out of every 10 of his K’s took the minimum three pitches. It turns out that, while Camp may have been a fair bit below the team’s average strikeout rate, he also had the bullpen’s highest strike percentage (64%). It’s a definite boost for the Cubs that they’ve re-signed Camp for 2013.

Similarly, Travis Wood may have been only average with his strikeout rate, but he established himself as the rotation’s leader in three-pitch K’s. He and fellow lefty Paul Maholm were pretty efficient when they did rack up strikeouts, while the actual K kings Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster were a little less direct to the end goal.

Now, there’s not much reason to think that’s a bad thing. Many times you want a pitcher to bury his secondary offerings and get batters to chase. But for tonight’s feast, we’ll hand out the drumsticks to Camp and Wood and let the rest work their way through some sides first.

2012 Player Profile: Travis Wood

Travis Wood relied heavily on his fastballs this season. (Photo by Stephen Green)

2012 Innings Pitched: 156 (26 G-26 GS)
2012 Pitching (all per 9 IP): 4.62 RA, 7.7 H, 3.1 BB, 1.4 HR, 6.9 K
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 0.7
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Pre-Arb, Third Year)
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): Four-seam (90), Two-seam (89), Cutter (87), Slider (80), Change (80), Curve (74)

Travis Wood came a long way in his first year as a Cub, playing himself into a key, middle-of-the-rotation spot in 2013.

Wood was acquired in one of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s first moves with the Cubs organization. The left-hander was part of a three-player package for set-up man Sean Marshall. (Outfielder Dave Sappelt and minor league infielder Ronald Torreyes also came to Chicago.) The goals were explicitly stated: Epstein and Hoyer wanted to 1) bolster the rotation’s depth and 2) flip a player who was one year away from free agency for players who would be under team control for several more seasons.

In terms of the latter, Wood won’t be eligible for free agency until 2017 at the earliest, giving the Cubs someone who can hold one of the Nos. 3-5 spots in the rotation. And regarding the pitching depth, Wood actually started the season as an extra man, spending most of April and May in Triple-A to iron out command issues. Manager Dale Sveum said that Wood didn’t just address his walk rate—which improved only marginally from 8.6 percent in 2011 to 8.3 percent this year—he also developed an entirely new way to attack hitters.

“He’s able to pitch on his arm side now, where he always pitched to his glove side, and he’s able to use his back-door cutter now instead of just throwing his fastball cutter inside,” Sveum told Vine Line in July. “It’s opening up the whole inside of the plate. He’d never done that in his life before.”

Let’s again take a closer look with PITCHf/x data, using the proprietary tags and tools provided by BrooksBaseball.net and Baseball Prospectus (player card).

Wood is a six-pitch pitcher who leans heavily on his hard stuff (blue), 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. Wood then builds in a change-up to keep batters off balance.

Against lefties, he instead looks to leverage the velocity, location and deception on his four-seam fastball. And when he gets ahead in the count, he goes to his slider, which dives away from a same-sided hitter.

Though Wood’s 4.27 ERA was a shade below average overall, his season suffered from a stretch of three horrible starts (22 ER, 9 HR, 15.2 IP) at the end of July. In his 23 other starts, he had a 3.33 ERA. He’s a true fly ball pitcher, and he experienced a huge jump in home runs per fly ball (from about 6% in 2010-11 to 12% in 2012), largely due to those three games. If he can lower that HR/FB rate once again—through better luck or actual skill—he would already have a great chance of improving his ERA in 2013.

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