Results tagged ‘ Travis Wood ’

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 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.

Cast your vote for the best of 2012

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Santo’s induction? Rizzo’s walk-off? Kerry’s farewell? Even though this season has been a struggle in the standings, there’s been no shortage of memorable Cubs highlights. Which events from the 2012 season made you stand up and take notice? This month, Vine Line is letting you decide on the best of 2012. Cast your vote and see the results in the October issue.

1000 Words: Joking Around

Comedians Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis stopped by Wrigley Field on Wednesday, July 18. Prior to throwing out the first pitch, the duo spent some time in the Cubs dugout, talking with Matt Garza, Travis Wood and much of the team.
(Photo by Dave Durochik)

Cubs catching fire

Cubs fans hope first baseman Anthony Rizzo will one day fuel the North Siders to a World Series title. While that’s unlikely to happen this season, it’s difficult to ignore the sizzling run the team has been on since Manager Dale Sveum inserted the prized prospect into the third spot of the batting order on June 26. The Cubs are 11-4 since Rizzo’s call-up, having won four straight three-game series and splitting a four-game set with the equally hot Braves.

During this stretch, the pitching has been as good as it’s been all season. Couple that with some timely hitting, and things are starting to click. Vine Line examined why the last 15 games have been such a successful stretch for the Cubs.

Offensive Resurgence: Alfonso Soriano is known as a streaky hitter, but he seems to be finding a more consistent groove. The veteran has hit .286 with three homers, three doubles and nine RBI since Rizzo’s call-up. Geovany Soto, who currently owns only a .189 batting average, has hit .257 with a homer and a pair of doubles in that time. And if you look at the team’s averages over the last month, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker’s numbers continuously appear at the top. They might not play every day, but they have definitely made the most of their opportunities. Johnson is hitting .440 in his last 25 at-bats, while Baker has hit .318 during the hot stretch.

Starting Pitching: Though Jeff Samardzija has struggled, the rest of the rotation has been the real difference maker for the team during the hot streak. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm and Travis Wood have gone a combined 9-1 over the last 15 games. In 62.1 innings, the quartet has surrendered a combined 11 earned runs (five of them coming in Garza’s July 5 start vs. Atlanta) and recorded a 1.59 ERA. The group has 46 strikeouts, or 6.67 K/9, while keeping the walks to a minimum (2.46 BB/9).

Anthony Rizzo: It all started with the phenom’s call-up. In his first game, he went 2-for-4 with a double and what would prove to be the game-winning RBI. He’s hit .356/.377/.627 in 61 plate appearances since. His altered stance has rewarded him with four homers, 10 RBI and just six strikeouts. While he’s crushing righties to the tune of a .429 average, the lefty is also hitting a respectable .250 against southpaws with a pair of homers. Many feared Rizzo woudln’t be able to hit lefties at the major league level. To say that Rizzo is carrying the team isn’t totally accurate, but he might very well have been the spark the Cubs were looking for.

Series Preview: New York Mets

As the New York Mets made their way into town for a three-game set, word spread around the city that elite first base prospect Anthony Rizzo will get his first start in a Cubs uniform Tuesday night. Though expectations are high, Manager Dale Sveum stressed that he didn’t want the young slugger to try to put the team on his back.

For his first big league games, Rizzo will be facing a surprisingly tough Mets club. After losing two of three to the crosstown rival Yankees, Manager Terry Collins’ team sits at a competitive 39-34 and is holding onto second place in the NL East. Prior to the series opener, we preview a few of the key figures in the Mets’ success.

Hitters to Watch:

Lucas Duda
David Wright continues to crush the ball (.360/.455/.565, 41 RBI) and is a midseason front-runner for the NL MVP Award, but the campaign Duda is putting together is nothing to scoff at. His 11 home runs and 42 RBI lead the team, and he has provided solid protection for Wright in the middle of the order. The 26-year-old’s on-base percentage (.353) is roughly 80 points higher than his batting average, and he comes into Wrigley riding a seven-game hitting streak.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis
The 24-year-old center fielder has started 55 of 71 games, and his .281 batting average is third-best on the team. Nieuwenhuis has recorded seven home runs, 10 doubles and 25 RBI on the season. The lefty has spent most of the year at the top of the Mets’ order and has 39 runs scored, good for top 25 in the NL. But he does have a tendency to strike out. His 29 percent strikeout rate is fifth-highest in the league.

Pitchers to Watch:

Johan Santana
Santana, who will open the series against Cubs lefty Travis Wood, has been a major force since he earned a regular spot in the Twins’ rotation in 2002. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has bounced back in a big way after missing all of 2011 with shoulder issues. His 3.00 ERA is actually a notch below his career mark (3.10), and the Mets are 8-6 in games he’s started. He’s tied for 12th in the NL in strikeouts (84) and his 9.0 K/9 ranks 11th in the National League.

Bobby Parnell
Parnell might be the key to New York’s ‘pen. The hard-throwing righty owns a 3.19 ERA, largely because of his 2.32 BB/9. He also strikes out a respectable batter per inning. Despite blowing three save opportunities, the 27-year-old has 15 holds, second-best among NL relievers. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Parnell twice this series, especially if the Mets have late-inning leads.

Cubs venture to the South Side

The Cubs take a trip down the Dan Ryan Expressway this week en route to U.S. Cellular Field for the second leg of the BP Crosstown Cup. To add some fuel to Chicago rivalry, we’re breaking down the position-by-position matchups for both teams, starting today with starters and bullpens.

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Starting Pitching

Matt Garza (2-5, 4.04 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.3 K/9) vs. Zach Stewart (1-1, 5.18 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 5.55 K/9)

The Cubs will have an opportunity to jump out to an early lead in the series with the Sox’s Zach Stewart making his first start of the season. Last year, Stewart completed seven innings just once in eight starts after being acquired from the Blue Jays in a July trade.

But this may not be a sure thing. For a starter many believed was the Cubs’ ace going into Opening Day, Matt Garza has struggled a bit, especially of late. In his first six outings, Garza had a 2.59 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and was striking out 9.19 batters per nine innings. In his last six outings, those numbers have worsened dramatically (5.87 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.55 K/9). With Adam Dunn and Alex Rios bouncing back, Paul Konerko likely having the best season of his career and many others hitting better than expected, Garza will have to pitch well to outlast the tough White Sox lineup.

Travis Wood (0-3, 4.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 6.1 K/9) vs. Jake Peavy (6-2, 2.91 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 7.83 K/9)

Travis Wood has been a consistent and solid addition to the Cubs’ rotation since joining the major league club in early May. The southpaw has completed five innings in all six of his starts and has gotten through the sixth in three of them. He’s only had one bad outing (5 IP, 6 ER, 7 H vs. the Padres, a game the Cubs still won) and has surrendered no more than three earned runs in five of six starts.

The Sox have been successful this season in part due to Jake Peavy’s return to dominance. After starting just 35 games over the last two seasons for the South Siders, Peavy entered camp healthy this year, and his numbers show he is back to his old, dominant form. One number that might be helping his cause is a .239 batting average on balls in play. Given the league average hovers somewhere around .300 and the Sox have a good-but-not-great defense, there might be some luck involved to his fast start.

Ryan Dempster (3-3, 2.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.3 K/9) vs. Gavin Floyd (4-7, 5.63 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.5 K/9)

Gavin Floyd has struggled of late to say the least. In his last six starts, he is 1-4 with a 10.71 ERA and a 2.01 WHIP. However, Floyd is still managing to strike out just better than one batter per inning.

Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, has been one of the National League’s most consistently dominant starters all season. Because of poor run support, the 35-year-old won his first start just three outings ago. Prior to his first win on June 5, the Cubs were averaging 2.89 runs per game in Dempster’s starts. But he has won each of his last three because the bats have finally livened up behind him.

While neither bullpen has been automatic this year, the Sox’s ‘pen has fared significantly better than that of the Cubs. Closer Addison Reed has converted eight of nine chances this season, while Matt Thornton (3.38 ERA) and Jesse Crain (2.18 ERA, 10.9 K/9) have been solid setup men.

The Cubs have a 4.51 bullpen ERA, second-worst in baseball, and have saved just nine games total, the lowest total in baseball. James Russell (2.56 ERA) and Shawn Camp (3.74 ERA) have both been good middle/late-innings relievers, but the closer spot is still a revolving door. It appears Carlos Marmol has regained that job after returning from a recent demotion.

Tomorrow on the blog, we’ll feature the infielders.

Cactus Notes: Cubs reduce roster to 31 players

Mesa, Ariz. — The Cubs are closer to finalizing their Opening Day roster after sending nine players to minor league camp Thursday, trimming their ranks from 40 players to 31.

Left-handed pitchers Scott Maine and Travis Wood, righty Randy Wells, outfielder Dave Sappelt and catcher Welington Castillo have all been optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Infielders Edgar Gonzalez and Matt Tolbert, righty Blake Parker and catcher Blake Lalli—all non-roster invitees—were assigned to minor league camp.

Manager Dale Sveum announced his Opening Day rotation will consist of Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm.

Wood and Wells were in the rotation mix heading into Spring Training, but were outpitched by Volstad and Samardzija. Wood struggled in Mesa, with a 17.28 ERA in 8.1 innings, surrendering 16 earned runs and three home runs. Wells, on the other hand, didn’t give up a run in his 7.1 spring innings, surrendering just four hits.

Castillo spent much of the spring battling Steve Clevenger for the backup catcher position. Though the 23-year-old Castillo hit .324 in 37 at-bats in the preseason, including a pair of home runs, the Cubs ultimately liked Clevenger’s lefty, line-drive bat and poise.

The roster, which needs to be cut down to 25 by next Thursday, currently sits at 16 pitchers, two catchers, seven infielders and six outfielders.

Cactus Notes: Prospects dominate first game

MESA, Ariz.–The first Cubs game of the season is in the books, and the youngest Cubs made a big early statement. The Blue team, led by top prospects Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, Junior Lake and Anthony Rizzo, took down the White team, which consisted of most of the projected Opening Day lineup, 10-4 in an intrasquad matchup at HoHoKam Park.

Top prospect Jackson got the Blue team off to a good start when he blasted a leadoff home run off starter Travis Wood.

“I just got a good pitch to hit,” said Jackson, who who went two-for-two with two walks. “It feels good to get underway and get that feel of playing innings instead of facing pitchers with the [cage] over you. It’s a good start all around. I think it was a productive day for everyone.”

Although many of the prospects impressed, Matt Szczur, a former football standout at Villanova University, was the real star of the game, hitting a grand slam, a two-run double and scoring from second on a sacrifice fly. Designated hitter Tony Campana also collected three hits and scored three runs in the game.

Wood, a left-hander who is in the mix for one of the final two rotation spots, struggled over three innings, giving up six runs on six hits, including two home runs. Randy Wells started for the Blue team and gave up three runs and four hits in three innings of work.

Cactus Notes: Highlights from Sveum’s morning press conference

MESA, Ariz.–Manager Dale Sveum addressed the media today in the dugout at HoHoKam Park, as his team prepares for its first intrasquad matchup. Though Sveum created minor stir by penciling Alfonso Soriano into the leadoff spot, he again stressed that people should not read too much into his lineups this spring because he is still experimenting. Today’s game will last five innings, with each starter going two-three frames or about 50-60 pitches.


“It’s going to be a different lineup every day. You’ll see a different leadoff hitter pretty much every day. We’ll probably have a set lineup by somewhere in the middle of March.”

“We don’t have the bona fide guys at any position in the order. We don’t have any guys who have driven in runs in the big leagues. Castro is probably the best hitter we have to hit third. Do we have that base stealer, leadoff and on-base guy? DeJesus probably fills that as much as anyone. But we don’t have a lot of cut-and-dry spots. It’s not that easy with this lineup right now.”

High Energy

“These guys are giving as good an effort as I’ve ever seen in Spring Training. There’s no doubt about that. It’s been phenomenal the effort they’ve given in all the fundamentals and their defensive work.”

Bunting Competition

“I’m hugely confident in my bunting. But I am probably facing the best bunter in camp today (Ryan Dempster), so it will be a tough match.”

Starting Spots

“You want to see [starters Travis Wood and Randy Wells] throw the ball well. You want to see them keep it down in the strike zone. They’re both guys who have to keep the ball down in the strike zone. Woody especially on his arm side, he needs to keep the ball down. He’s pretty good when he throws the ball inside. That’s probably his forte. But he needs to be able to open the plate up, so you’re looking at that. Wells just needs to have command of all of his pitches and keep the ball down. And have command of and have his change-up. He has a really, really good change-up that he gets away from sometimes and stops using to right-handers. So it’s a pitch for him that he has to have command of to be successful.”