The Chicago Cubs are standing on the brink of elimination tonight, and one man, Alex Wood, could stand in the way of extending the series.
The Cubs will get their third Dodgers’ lefty of the series tonight, but unlike the first two, Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, this one has traditional splits … barely.
Lefty/Right Splits 2017:
Versus Righties: .211/.273/.352, .265 wOBA
Versus Lefties: .229/.275/.331, .267 wOBA
After grinding their way through three dominant starting pitchers in Kershaw, Hill, and Yu Darvish, the Cubs’s bats are rewarded with … another dominant pitcher. But unlike the first two, Wood doesn’t even provide a helpful lefty/right split, against which the Cubs could try overload and exploit.
Worse, Wood’s been a pretty extreme ground ball pitcher this year, who hardly allows hard contact, and, thus, hasn’t given up a ton of homers. On top of that, he’s struck out a solid 24.6% of batters while walking just 6.2%, both of which are solidly better than average and will eat away at the Cubs overall chances. Indeed, Wood may have only thrown 152.1 innings this season, but he was very good throughout – 2.72 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 3.34 xFIP – and was rewarded with a spot on his first All-Star roster because of it.
And just to add insult to injury, I’ll point out that Wood finished the regular season strong, with three straight starts of at least 6.0 innings a piece, and just a combined four earned runs, two walks, and 15 strikeouts. Yeah, it’s not great.
But despite all of that ugliness stacked up against the Cubs, there is one teeny, tiny morsel of hope: Wood may have finished his season on a strong note, but he hasn’t pitched competitively since then.
Yep, Wood’s last real inning came against the Padres all the back on September 26th – over THREE weeks ago – because the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks in three straight before Wood could get his turn in a theoretical Game 4. Sure, he’s pitched two simulated games since, including an 85-pitch outing on Thursday, but that’s just not the same thing as real game action. There’s a chance then – again, however teeny and tiny – that the Cubs could catch off guard a guy who’s been out of it for a while.
It’s the smallest of wagons to hitch yourself, but in a series devoid of hope in a matchup against a really good starter, we have to turn somewhere. Perhaps too much time on the bench can do the trick.