What Can We Expect From Kerry Wood This Year?

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What Can We Expect From Kerry Wood This Year?

Chicago Cubs

It’s going to be weird to see Kerry Wood with a “K. Wood” on the back of his jersey.

With Travis Wood now in the fold, Woody may have to differentiate himself a bit – which sounds a lot like what he might have to do on the mound if he wants to keep his setup job.

Wood, who turns 35 in June, is expected to serve as the Cubs’ primary setup man this year, coming off a 3.35, 51 inning season in 2011, in which he struck out 57, and sported a 1.294 WHIP. Not elite numbers, but certainly adequate. He did have six blown saves against just 21 holds, which could obviously stand to be improved.

So, how will Wood look in 2012? Assuming he stays healthy – always a fair question with Woody – it’s fair to expect another solid, if unspectacular, season. His FIP and xFIP last year were 3.59 and 3.85, respectively, so it’s not as though his 3.35 ERA was entirely a product of luck or exceptional fielding.

Various projections have him with an ERA in the mid-to-upper 3s, which would make him just about worth his $3 million salary, but far from a lockdown 8th inning guy. It’s possible that, by the end of the year, Wood will have yielded 8th inning duties to one of the younger righties coming up through the system (someone like Rafael Dolis or even Trey McNutt), or someone with a big arm who can’t crack the rotation (someone like Jeff Samardzija or Chris Carpenter).

Projections, of course, don’t take into account the value Wood brings to the Cubs by virtue of his mere presence. He’s as good a mentor as you’d want on a young team, and, although hard to quantify, that has value. Whether it’s teaching kids how to conduct themselves on and off the field, or teaching a young pitcher how to approach a particular hitter, Wood is going to help the Cubs this year.

For his part, Wood feels like he’s in good shape and good health, and is prepared to help the Cubs when he’s actually got the ball in his hand.

“The knee is great,” Wood told reporters, referring to a minor knee surgery that ended his 2011 season in September. “I am 100 percent, no problems and it has been that way for a month or so. I’ve been throwing off the mound for a while now and feel great.”

Wood added that he’s open to whatever role he’s given, though manager Dale Sveum has indicated Wood will be his 8th inning guy.

“Whatever they want me to do,” Wood said Wednesday. “I just come in and get guys out, whether it’s the seventh inning or eighth inning or fifth inning, whatever they need. I’ll go in there and get my guys out and give the ball to the next person.”

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.