Travis Wood is the Latest Cub to Look Better Than He Looked at this Point Last Year

travis wood cubsIt’s quickly becoming the “best shape of my life” comment of Chicago Cubs camp:

Dudes look better than they did at this point last year. We heard it about Matt Garza, Scott Baker says he’s ahead of where he was at this point last year (before his Tommy John surgery), and now it’s Travis Wood whose stuff is looking better than it did at this point last year.

“The ball is coming out of Wood’s hand so much better than last Spring,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, per ESPNChicago. “The way he’s spinning the ball.”

Of course, given the way Wood performed last Spring, Sveum’s comment may be more of a reassurance than a compliment. It’s easy to forget that Wood entered Spring Training in 2012 as an easy favorite to win a spot in the rotation, but he struggled so mightily that he was one of the first rotation competitors to get the boot. Eventually he got himself together, working his way back up to the big leagues and into the Cubs’ rotation. His overall numbers wound up encouraging, if not spectacular – 4.27 ERA, 1.199 WHIP, 2.20 K/BB, 54% quality start rate (52% is league average), 4.84 FIP (that’s the ugly one).

If he comes out of the gate throwing the ball much better this time around, he’ll likely land a spot in the rotation from the get-go as the only lefty.

If he doesn’t, though, Sveum says Wood is definitely a bullpen candidate.

“We have enough depth, so right now we’ll take the best seven guys in the bullpen, whoever it is,” Sveum said. “His development as a starter is pretty much over.”

In other words, if Wood looks like a quality bullpen option, the Cubs aren’t going to fret about wrecking his future starting abilities by switching him into the bullpen. Of course, the fact that Wood is out of options doesn’t hurt his chances of making the team, regardless of his role. And with James Russell the only lefty currently locked into the bullpen, Wood heading that way as a swing man wasn’t out of the question anyway.

It seems likely that we’ll see a rotation of Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, and Travis Wood coming out of Spring Training, with Scott Baker on the DL (or piggy-backing), and Carlos Villanueva in the bullpen. But it’s interesting to know that the Cubs are formally considering Wood as a bullpen option. And it’s good to know that, at least for now, he’s throwing the ball well.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

68 responses to “Travis Wood is the Latest Cub to Look Better Than He Looked at this Point Last Year”

  1. Rich

    Yea it’s a nice pump him compliment.But one or two bad innings and he will fill his Subway meal card in Iowa this summer.

    1. dw8

      “Of course, the fact that Wood is out of options”,

      not going to Iowa

  2. #23

    I like Travis Wood. I hope he stays in the rotation.

  3. Scott

    If he’s in the bullpen, a nice pinch hit option too! I often thought he should have been used for that last year when he was starting.

  4. DB Kyle

    Is he rededicated to baseball? Is he in the best shape of his life? Does he have a renewed focus? Is he on a mission?

    1. DarthHater

      No, but he trimmed his beard.

    2. MightyBear

      DB Kyle what’s the over under on those phrases this spring? Got to be at least 50.

    3. Marc N.

      I would guess that at this point in his development he’s really ready to turn it loose.

  5. Rich

    Out of options..well there goes the free 6″ sub…
    I like him too…I hope he does well..

    And I dont know about the rest of you..
    I am so darn excited for baseball. I love it!

    My son just turned 11, gets pitching lessons from a pro..and I just love being around it.

    Kinda like Rocky when he helps Mickey at the gym..Except, I am not Rocky…

  6. MightyBear

    Wood’s getting better and better. He’s still young. His biggest problem last year was consistency. He looked like Cy Young one game and Cy McCormick the next. It all had to do with command. Hopefully, he gets consistent this year and has a great year. The Cubs rotation will be their biggest strength this year.

    1. cjdubbya

      With that Mississippi mudflap he was sporting for part of last year, I’d say Cy Young one game, then Cy Sperling the next. To each, his own.

  7. ETS

    his xfip was a slightly better 4.62

  8. Jono

    Is it weird that I don’t like getting players from other NL central teams? Ramirez is the only guy that came from within the division who I liked. Its just a weird bias, I guess

  9. Mike Taylor (no relation)

    I love our pitching depth this year. If Travis Wood builds off of the 2nd half of last year’s success, there’s a lot of room to be optimistic. Even though he spent limited time in Cincy’s bullpen, he was great. Villanueva and Feldman both have had extended stays in the bullpen, so when Baker’s healthy, I think our pitching staff becomes that much better.

    We need our offense to be there. We need Ian Stewart to break out, Welingon Castillo and Anthony Rizzo to consistently put up the same kind of numbers they did last year and avoid the Sophmore slump. We could surprise a lot of people in 2013. I like the Scott Hairston signing. I love most of the NRI. A few moves mid season to make room for a surging Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters could really ignite my excitement. I’ll be watching the minors more closely this year.

  10. Abe Froman

    Brett, when you make a reference it’s very helpful when you link to supporting past articles you or another source has written (as you did twice above). Random suggestion: you could make a short glossary or wiki and when you use stats or references to prospects you could link to that entry in the wiki (e.g. Brett Jackson, FIP).

    I know the noobs are still going through hell week so you probably shouldn’t even throw them a bone, just a thought.

    1. TWC

      If you folks don’t have the Baseball Reference bookmarklet stuck on your bookmarks bar, I don’t know WHAT’s wrong with you. Works for Safari and IE; there’s also a Firefox plugin. Highlight the player’s name on the webpage, click the bookmarklet, click okay, and you’re taken directly to the B-R page for that player.

      1. Abe Froman

        That doesn’t preclude my suggestion from having a functional use. But that is helpful tip, thank you for sharing.

        1. TWC

          Oh, no, I know it doesn’t. (And, I apparently forgot to provide that link for people (http://www.baseball-reference.com/friv/)).

          I really meant it more as an aside.

          1. Abe Froman

            Sweet, thanks for that.

          2. hansman1982
    2. Abe Froman

      One additional thought: you could also tag each article to the entries in the wiki and then users could see all of the articles relating to whatever you’ve tagged, a prospect for example.

  11. Levon

    I hope he takes as much time with his pitching as he did looking at hisself in the mirror shirtless at Wood party lol

  12. Nate

    Brett, I have a question. When someone says a baseball player is “out of options” is that a figure of speech, like this is their last shot? Or is that actually a part of their contract or some other baseball thing I do not understand?

    Thanks

    1. TWC
      1. TWC

        Additionally, The Cub Reporter’s 40-man roster page used to have GREAT, elaborate descriptions of all the ins and outs of the roster rules, which rules pertain to which players, etc., but a year or so they redesigned their page, and I can never find the original anymore.

    2. JB88

      Per the CBA, a player may be optioned between the minor leagues and major leagues a set number of time before that player is “out of options.” When a player is out of options, the club may still send the player to the minors, but expose that player to waivers. If memory serves, these are revocable waivers, however. IOW, if the Cubs wished to send Wood to the minors they would expose him to waivers, if no one claimed him, they could send him down. If someone claimed him, they could chose to withdraw his waiver without penalty or attempt to work out some trade before pulling him off waivers.

      Essentially, it was a system put in place to prevent teams from stashing talent in the minors indefinitely or shuttling talent between the minors and majors without consequence.

      1. hansman1982

        “Per the CBA, a player may be optioned between the minor leagues and major leagues a set number of time before that player is “out of options.””

        This is incorrect. Once on the 40-Man Roster the player can spend 3 years (or parts of a year (so a month long stint is considered an entire year for options)) in the minors before having to pass through waivers prior to being sent down.

        1. hansman1982

          Furthermore, a player can bounce up and down from the minors to MLB as many times as allowed* in a season and still only burn 1 option.

          * Players must spend no fewer than 10 days in the minors after being sent down prior to being recalled.

          1. TWC

            ** Unless they’re recalled due to an injury on the 25-man roster. (right?)

            1. Hansman1982

              I believe so.

        2. JB88

          Yep, just realized that reading TWC’s link.

          You learn something new everyday (though, frankly, I’m a bit embarrassed that I didn’t know/remember that when I posted).

  13. dw8

    Another option is the player linkers on both BF and fangraphs.

    1. Abe Froman

      Everyone is mentioning some great resources, my point was only a suggestion of how to further organize the information on this site specifically.

  14. steve

    I really think highly of Wood. He pitched well for the most part last year, and he’s still young. I believe he’s still developing and will be one of the more solid lefty starters in the league in a year or so. We have a lot of depth for the rotation this year, so I could see him start in the pen then jump to the rotation later on. If it was up to me though, I’d put him in the rotation as the only lefty there and ride the year out with him there, he’ll only continue to get better the more he pitches.

  15. Jesse

    Brett what does a player start his prime years?
    I thought it started at 27?

  16. Jesse

    When? Typo

  17. ramy16

    The Indians just signed Bourn…Indians are fielding alot of calls regarding Drew Stubbs! He would look pretty damn good in a Cubs uniform! They have Brantley and Stubbs, they don’t need both!

    1. TWC

      Drew Stubbs? He of the .610 OPS last year? He of the .277 OBP last year?

      We’d do better putting Darwin Barney in CF.

  18. ramy16

    Say goodbye to Grady Sizemore…with Bourn, Stubbs, Brantley…somebody’s going to pick up a nice centerfielder for not a lot in return

  19. cubmig

    Wood has yet to prove himself. He may show he’s releasing the ball better (Sveum), and he may do well in ST, but those are only signs. The season will tell the tale when it starts……Don’t get me wrong……I like to read good report notes, but my guarded skepticism keeps me from getting enthusiastic about first looks and starts; especially when the talk is for a “losing” 2013 season.

  20. ramy16

    TWC…the point i was trying to make is that we really don’t have a true centerfielder, even though Dejesus can play that position…Stubbs is young and could fill in until Jackson or Soler are ready to take over..Stubbs has some pop! Heck he hit 3 Hrs at Wrigley in one game if my memory serves me right..I think Stubbs could be had cheap since the Indians have 3 centerfielder’s

    1. TWC

      Yeah, and the point I was trying to make is that Drew Stubbs sucks. Like, sucks. It’s amazing that he played as much as he did in CF for the fairly good Reds team.

      Whatever you think a “true” CF is, in nearly every way on offense DeJesus surpasses Stubbs. Stubbs is significantly faster on the bases, but he strikes out *twice* as much as DDJ. Why you’d rather have a crappy, crappy CF (Stubbs) “holding down the spot” for Soler or Jackson is beyond me.

      1. fromthemitten

        even more surprising is that Stubbs hit leadoff for so long

        oh wait no he’s speedy and dusty is the manager

        1. TWC

          bingo

        2. DocPeterWimsey

          What made it a little surprising is that Stubbs does walk a fair bit (~9% of PAs), and I sometimes think that Dusty simply cannot see walks: a guy takes Ball 4 and he basically puts on the One Ring.

          Of course, Stubbs contact skills are absolutely abysmal: it’s tough to walk 9% of the time and still have a career OBP of 0.31.

          1. TWC

            You’re dropping a lot of LOTR analogies these days, Doc… you midway through a re-read?

            1. DocPeterWimsey

              No, I have a business address in Middle earth for tax purposes.

              1. Good Captain

                What’s the tax rate there by chance?

                1. DocPeterWimsey

                  In galleons or barrels of Longbottom leaf?

      2. MichiganGoat

        I believe Stubbs would take over the Scrappy Crown if he was on the team.

    2. Abe Froman

      I would gamble on Jackson being called up in a couple months and seeing what we have at CF. There are bigger holes to fill building toward next year and beyond IMO.

  21. Die hard

    Wait a minute! Did Sveum aka Bardem say all bullpen positions are up for grabs? Thought team was set? Maybe he is trying to shake things up- good, wish I thought of that

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      No, Sveum said that he’ll take the best 7 guys. He never said anything about using ST as a criterion for who is best. Of course, that is always tough to call: relievers pitch so little in any one year that you really need 2-3 years of numbers to properly evaluate them.

  22. rudymeolismullet

    I hope you all understand, just like Tony Campana, Travis Wood is a bum!

  23. another JP

    For all the hand-wringing some fans did when Theo traded Marshall for Wood, Sappelt, and Torreyes, that is turning out to be an awesome deal for us. Last year Wood & Sappelt matched Marshall’s 1.8 WAR and their league minimum salaries are much more budget friendly than the $16.5M, 3 yr. extension Marshall signed with the Reds. Wood/Sappelt could also very well improve their numbers in the next several years.

  24. rudymeolismullet

    When/if we get good again, Wood and Sappelt will not be with the club.

    1. TWC

      Anything else you want to get off your chest, kid?

    2. Drew7

      Care to expand?

  25. Fastball

    Dusty had a Neifi crush on Stubby. We know how that works. Neifi was Dusties lily pitch boy and he was just fing awful. Stubby is a good defender and very fast and he is probably SCRAPPY !!!! NO THANKS…. Didn’t we just shitcan one of those types.

  26. Die hard

    Phillies going after Theriot as back- up Should Cubs step in? He’s got a lot of fire and could get Castro into each game

    1. MichiganGoat

      Well he is scrappy so of course we should sign him.

    2. TWC

      Yeah, Theriot’s got a lot of… fire….

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BMv9Vls7mRg

      (Really, that’s the best 3 minutes 31 seconds on YouTube. I promise you, folks.)

      1. cubchymyst

        Love the Benny Hill music. You are correct, that was a great 3 minutes and 31 seconds.

        1. hansman1982

          He just tries his little heart out.

          TWC, please save this link for the next time someone questions Castro’s abilities at SS.

          1. fromthemitten

            this video makes me appreciate D-Lee’s 1B skills because he would have scooped up most of those balls that Pujols flubbed

            1. Nomar's Left Glove

              That said though, doesn’t Pujols have at least 1 gold glove. I’ve seen the gold label on his glove in the field, which I believe is a sign that he had won one. I always thought Pujols looked like a manatee on Benadryl doing most things other than hitting.

    3. fromthemitten

      I wouldn’t welcome him back after he ripped the organization while praising the Cardinals

  27. cub2014

    cubs rotation 2014: samardijza, garza, jackson, wood (remember he is only 26) and a #1
    maybe Price? that would be a top rotation in baseball. Add 3 more hitters and you are in the mix.