The Evolving Man-Crush on Travis Wood and Other Bullets

travis wood beardIt sure would be neat to have Matt Harvey or Shelby Miller on the Cubs. They are doing quite well.

  • Then again, Travis Wood has been so very good. It seems every time he starts, the next day’s Bullets focus on just how good he’s been, but question how sustainable his goodness can be. (For the record, I’m still at “he can definitely be a quality 3/4 long term, but I don’t think he’ll keep pitching like an ace.”) Dale Sveum knocked a quote out of the park when asked about all of the success going to Wood’s head, per Cubs.com: “You can guarantee one thing besides the sun coming up is that Travis Wood will be the same guy the next day.” Sveum has an uber man-crush on Travis Wood.
  • Per a variety of folks citing the stat, Wood’s streak of eight consecutive quality starts to begin a season has tied Hippo Vaughn’s team record, set in 1919. Wood’s 2.03 ERA is 11th best in baseball, and his 0.90 WHIP is 5th best in baseball. And the beard. Oh, the lumberjack beard.
  • Dale Sveum is insisting on getting 37-year-old outfielder Alfonso Soriano extra days of rest, particularly in day games following night games. It’s understandable, but you could also understand Soriano not loving the plan. “It’s a little difficult,” Soriano said, per the Tribune. “They think night game and then a day game, and because of my age I need a day off. They say there are too many day games.” I know players want to play, and you don’t want to rest Soriano too much, but it sure seems like he does well after he gets an extra rest day. I don’t have any data to back that up. Just a feeling. After his homer and double last night, Soriano’s season line is up to .279/.308/.436, which is a 101 OPS+. Better than average!
  • Luis Valbuena’s hurt pinkie still isn’t considered a serious problem, but he’ll likely not start again today, with lefty Jeff Francis going for the Rockies. Hopefully he’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow.
  • I noted in the EBS last night that the Cubs love doubles, and I meant it: they lead the league with 87 of them. Unfortunately, too few of them have led to runs at this point in the season.
  • Matt Garza starts again for Iowa on Thursday, where he’ll hopefully throw 80 to 90 pitches. The Cubs will decide at that point whether he’s ready to make his next start with the big team. Although I’m sure the Cubs aren’t looking forward to bumping an effective pitcher from the rotation, they’re not going to wait on the Garza decision for that reason. When Garza is ready, he’s coming back, regardless of the rotation. The Cubs have too much to gain by letting Garza get as many big league starts in as possible before July 31.

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

64 responses to “The Evolving Man-Crush on Travis Wood and Other Bullets”

  1. Kyle

    So everyone hates Stewart and Lilibridge and loves Travis Wood now?

    We’re one Edwin Jackson resurgence away from this season officially being renamed “Everybody Realizes Kyle Is Right About Everything.”

    1. college_of_coaches

      You also predicted that Hector Rondon wouldn’t make the team. Just saying -;

      1. Kyle

        Hector Rondon with the -0.1 fWAR and 5.97 xFIP? Maybe they should have listened to me on that one, too :)

        1. JulioZuleta

          I wouldn’t judge a decision to make a rule 5 stash on a month’s worth of reliever stats. Especially a guy’s first month back in action after TJ…And when his stats are skewed off of 1 four run outing (yes, I know the bad ones count as much as the good ones). He’s way ahead of the last 2 Rule Vs we’ve taken.

          1. Spriggs

            I’m trying to remember… Lendy and Patton was it? Yikes.

            1. JulioZuleta

              Hah yeah…Paton, terrible.

              1. Alex

                Haha for what it counts he was perfect in spring training if I remember

          2. jt

            one bad one only counts toward one in the “L” column.
            Rondon’s FB/GB ratio is really pretty bad.
            In the case of Travis Wood, it does not bother me that about 20% of his career outings have been pretty bad. I do wonder that his constant FB% of about 45 is approximately the same as his career. His LD% is down about 5% and GB% is up also about 5% in 2013 gives a bit of solace. But as the weather warms and the winds direction starts to change….
            Even with that concern I hope they eventually sign T. Wood long term.

        2. Myles

          xFIP is an awful stat, don’t use it. There are plenty of other stats to illustrate your ponit but xFIP isn’t one of them

          1. Myles

            Wow, that comment is in need of editing.

            1. Cubbie Blues

              If only there was a button for that, Brett. ::ducks::

    2. Cubbie Blues

      1. Nobody loved Stewart. It was a gamble that didn’t pay-off (back-fired).
      2. Nobody loved Lilibridge it was a low cost fill-in.
      3. A lot of us like the Wood/Toreyes for Marshall trade at the time. SP > RP.

      1. Wilbur

        Good summary …

    3. ssckelley

      But I think the hate for Stewart is more about attitude than performance. Anyone that was still on the Stewart bandwagon quickly came off of it after he took a couple of days off just because he could.

    4. a_mazz_ing

      Did you also predict our closer would be Cy Gregg?

      1. Kyle

        I’m still predicting he’s going to fall apart soon in a flurry of BBs.

        1. another JP

          Hey big shot- want to still tell us all how Cub management made a mistake for not signing Pujols? Perhaps you should cool your jets before you puff out your chest about how great an evaluator of talent you are.

          1. Kyle

            Never. Puffing is fun.

  2. Andy

    How lame am I if I think Wood should be the guy to go to the pen when Garza comes back? At the very least I think we need another lefty in the bullpen.

    1. Tim

      Pretty lame

    2. Kyle

      Only a little lame. If you wanted to take a hardcore stathead stance, it’s pretty defensible. But it’s not going to happen.

    3. cubchymyst

      Don’t feel to bad i was thinking the same for awhile, not anymore though.

  3. Cubbie Blues

    “Better than average!”
    Maybe that will be our slogan for next year instead of “Committed”.

    1. pete

      We’re committed to be better than average . . . . . in 2017?

  4. JoeyCollins

    The sun rises in the east and sets wherever Travis Wood wants it to.

    1. lukers63

      Here come the Chuck Norrisisms…..

    2. miggy80

      The sun doesn’t rise or go down it’s just an illusion caused by Travis Wood spinning the world around. Do you realize?

    3. Jim

      :: CLAPPING :: Quote of the day :)

  5. JR

    I hope Garza comes back and pitches well. They should lock him up. There are other trade chips out there with maybe Feldman and others. I am also not convinced of locking up Samardja. I am not convinced he is going to be a great starter. I know they probably wont do it but to me there is a trade chip.

    1. Feeney

      Lock up Garza but not Shark? Shark was a 3 war guy last season and looks to be 3-4 this season. His FIP and xFIP last season and this season are better than anything Garza has ever done other than 2011, his first year with the Cubs. Shark is 2 years younger. I think if you want to advocate locking up Garza, which I am okay with, the same logic applies to Shark.

    2. Rcleven

      Garza won’t be locked up. The Cubs tried to extend him last year. The Cubs really recognized his talent. Garza insisted on a no trade. Talks broke down and never went anywhere after that. Unless Garza backs off the no trade there will be no extension.

  6. FFP

    Well if he is moved it won’t get in his head like it might some pitchers. Sveum “can guarantee…that Travis Wood will be the same guy the next day.”

  7. Rebuilding

    I love how Wood has looked this year, but his xFIP is 4.46 so regression is coming. Probably as soon as it warms up a little. He has cut his HR % almost in half

    1. Noah

      Look at his HR/FB rate from Cincy, though, where he was playing home games in one of the more hitter friendly parks in baseball. It could indicate that last year’s HR/FB rate was the aberration.

      With that said, yes, he’s due for regression. But the question is if, for Wood, the FIP or xFIP would be the more reliable base that expected regression.

  8. JulioZuleta

    If you want a nice kick in the nuts to start your morning, look up the articles about how the city if about to release plans to fund a $300 M north side stadium for DePaul basketball. That’s right, Ricketts has to jump through hoops to spend $500M of his own money, but taxpayers are paying to fund a TERRIBLE basketball team that plays for a PRIVATE university… http://espn.go.com/chicago/conversations/_/id/9271967/chicago-300-million-plan-new-depaul-blue-demons-arena-report-says

    It’s as if Rahm studied politics under the worst politician that ever existed…

    1. JulioZuleta

      *Religious school, I might add. Nothing like a good old fashioned mix of church and state. If it doesn’t sound corrupt enough yet, plans are likely to include a casino. A casino…built along with a college sporting event. City uses public dollars to fund religious school basketball court, complete with casino. Only in Chicago.

      1. clark addison

        The casino should be restricted to senior citizens playing Bingo.

    2. Cubbie Blues

      I wake up wanting a lot of things in the morning. That however has never been one of them. It would take a unique individual to crave that anytime of the day.

      1. Spriggs

        In fact, I spend a good deal of the day trying to figure out to avoid those.

    3. bbmoney

      Without having more information than what’s in that article, I still think it’s different for the city to provide funding for a building project for an institution of higher learning (private yes, but it’s not a privately owned for profit business). Doesn’t mean I think the city should be doing it, but i’ve got a lot less of a problem with a gov’t providing money for construction projects not for profits / institutions of higher learning than for privately owned for profit businesses.

      Based on that article, it also seems like the city would own the development which is a completely different dynamic. A casino just seems idiotic though as part of a development where college sporting events will occur.

      1. JulioZuleta

        I could buy it if it had anything to do with the “learning” aspect. Instead, it’s a basketball court that isn’t even going to be on campus and that no one is going to go to. Also, public funds should never go to anything religious like that. I went to a Catholic school for 11 years, the building was in ridiculous shape and we had history books that were probably leaving out major pieces of history because they were published before the events happened. If you’re going to mix church and state, do it on something that actually helps.

        1. JulioZuleta

          This seems like a situation where taxpayers could enjoin the city from funding the project.

        2. Toby

          Blame the old history books on the Vatican’s priority of accumulating wealth.

          1. JulioZuleta

            I know, my point was that the state money should never go to religion, but if it is going to, do something useful. This stadium will draw very few fans. Without knowing all the details, I suspect including the stadium afforded some type of break or loophole that allowed the casino.

            1. bbmoney

              Gov’t money goes to religious organizations all the time. Religious org’s with broad reaching goals, like colleges, hospitals, etc. get millions and millions of dollars of gov’t funding every year….it just can’t be spent on any of their religious activities. Granted that funding usually goes towards things like health care, aid for the needy both nationally and abroad, and research.

              While I don’t like these kind of projects, even with the few facts we have, I still feel pretty good about saying this is way different from gov’t funds being used to renovate a stadium owned privately by one family who’s in the business of turning a profit for themselves (as much as we’d like pro sports teams to be some kind of public good……they just aren’t).

    4. Willard "Mitt" Romney

      Taught him everything he knows. I miss him. :(

  9. David

    Any chance at trading Feldman and/ or Garza and then sign them this offseason?

  10. Noah

    But is Travis Wood actually any better than he has been over the last several seasons? His 6.08 K/9 and 2.87 BB/9 are pretty much in line with career averages. His ground ball rate has moved up to 39.7% after being in the low to mid-30s in prior seasons. But the big reason for the great ERA is an unsustainable BABIP against of .186 and an unsustainable left on base percentage of 83%. He’s essentially the flip side of the bad luck that Edwin Jackson (.333 BABIP against, 54.7% left of base rate) has suffered.

    So I don’t think Wood’s performance thus far is really indicative of his talent, and either his FIP or xFIP more likely are. His FIP is a still quite good 3.65, while his xFIP is 4.46. Whether you think the FIP or xFIP is a better number for Wood depends on if you think that Wood has a talent for inducing more fly balls that don’t leave the yard than the average pitcher or not. However, as Wood has had a HR/FB rate in the 6-6.5% range in 3 of his four years in the Majors, including his parts of 2 seasons in the launching zone that is Great American Ballpark, it is more likely than not that he does have a talent for limiting the HR/FB rate.

    With that said, I think saying Wood has clearly shown himself after 8 starts to be a 3/4 type is a bit hasty. He’s at least someone you’d be happy to have as your 5, ceiling of a 3 in my book.

    1. Rcleven

      The only difference I see in Wood this year over the past is he so far has been able to reduce the hung pitch high in the zone. Last year he would do it three to four times a game. This year he seems to have reduced leaving that pitch up in the zone down to once or twice.
      Three of the four runners he allowed last night were wiped out on DP’s. The fourth would have been wiped out on the DP if the runner was not allowed to advance to second on a misplay.

    2. Kygavin

      I think everyone agrees that Wood will have some regression (not many pitchers can keep a 2 ERA and a .90 WHIP over a whole season) but I dont think he will regress as much as people think. Yes his strand rate is unsustainably high and his BABIP is unsustainably low but with the rise in GB rate I think the strand rate can stay above average and above his career numbers. That being said the more ground balls that are hit the more his BABIP will increase so its kinda a double-edged sword. I could see Wood settling in around a 3.5 ERA or so with an average to slightly below average k rate

  11. sect209row15

    I always feel good about a win when wood starts. That sums it up for me. Marmol can screw up a one car funeral.

  12. clark addison

    Fujikawa will be the closer by July.

  13. Jason

    Why does everyone think he must have a regression? It IS possible for a player to continually get better.
    He’s absolutely been the ace of our staff this year, why does that have to change??

    Having said that, I think his next outing will be an important one. He’s gotten some publicity after these first 8 games now, let’s see how he handles it. He’s been great for us ever since coming from Cinicnnati though. Sure, there were a couple bad games last year, but the trade for Marshall, while when it happened was viewed as a terrible move, is now smelling like a garden full of roses.

    1. Kyle

      Nothing has to happen. But in this case, it’s very, very likely he’ll regress because the most reliable indicators haven’t changed.

      1. terencemann

        I believe that Wood is the kind of pitcher who will have up and down years just based on how the defense and luck favors him. The line from the last game isn’t that pretty. We should probably be ready to enjoy runs like this and hopefully he can continue to contribute when it counts. He could also be a good filler in a later trade if the Cubs want to make a big move.

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      In this case, it’s not regression to Wood’s mean performances in “true” outcomes (walks, K’s, grounders, flyballs). Instead, we can expect the BABiP against Wood to regress to the mean because that’s not a property of particular pitchers. Similarly, we can expect Wood’s HR:FB ratio to regress to the mean because that’s not really a property of a pitcher, either.

      1. Jason

        gotcha…that makes more sense.
        Of course, it still doesn’t mean that will happen :)

        1. Kygavin

          Youre 100% right. He could just have an insanely lucky year this year and have a really low ERA due to his BABIP and strand rate staying in the abnormal range they are now. But then again he could just as easily have luck go against him and end up with a 4 ERA this year or even next.

          1. jt

            also,
            he may tire a bit as the season progresses;
            the air will warm and become lighter so he may lose just a bit of movement on his pitches while hit ball will travel further;
            the wind may shift and carry more fly balls into the basket.
            That said,
            he may have learned to toss more ground balls as indicated by the 5% increase in rate and rely more on that during the hot weather.
            The only constant is change.

  14. Mike

    Wood is a tremendous competitor, he is only going to get better. He works out in the off season with Cliff Lee. I think all of his prior stats can be thrown out the window, he has turned the corner. He will be a number one or two for years to come. He has just fine tuned his location this year and is mixing up his pitches perfectly, hitters are so off balance against him. He is truly a ‘pitcher.’

    1. TonyS

      It seems like he’s got his cutter working well this year. Throwing it 87-89 and then mixing in his straighter fastball at 90-92. As you say Mike, the hitters seem to be having trouble squaring up his pitches and are always off balance. The thrower is becoming a pitcher.

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