Travis Wood is “The Best Starter in Baseball” and Other Bullets

travis wood cubsToday’s game against the Cardinals is a “Pink Out,” so make sure you wear pink to the game.

  • After his seventh consecutive quality start to begin the 2013 season, Dale Sveum is ready to say that Travis Wood is “the best starter in baseball, pretty much.” I’m not sure I’d say he’s even the best starter on the Cubs at this point, but Wood’s ridiculous start to the year can’t be ignored. And, as I pointed out previously in the Bullets, it isn’t just the start of this season: Wood has been outstanding since he began his tenure with the Cubs. Even if he lays two consecutive eggs now before Matt Garza returns, he absolutely can’t be the guy removed from the rotation, can he? And if it can’t be Wood, and it can’t be Scott Feldman (he’s been just as dominant lately, and he’s got trade value to build), we’re left with Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva. Each might be pitching for his spot in the rotation over the next two weeks. (But it’s important to note that, if Jackson loses his spot in the rotation, it would be a temporary thing – he’s with the Cubs to be a starter, long-term. But since he’s got no trade value to build, it might make some sense for him to be the guy given a temporary breather. Still, it’s early. Plenty of time for this to sort itself out … )
  • In fairness, any conversation of how good Travis Wood has been this year needs to include a conversation of what the advanced stats say. In short, they say he’s been far more lucky than good. A .198 BABIP against and an 80.7% LOB make him the polar opposite of Edwin Jackson, which is to say fortune may be smiling on Wood (his xFIP is just 4.19, even though his ERA is 2.33). In total, I believe Wood remains a very nice 3/4/5 type, and probably more of a 4/5 on a good team. Best starter in baseball? Nah. But that’s not an insult.
  • Forget what Dale Sveum will or won’t say: Kevin Gregg is the Cubs’ closer now. It would have sounded crazy just two weeks ago, but the guy has earned it by virtue of his ability to throw strikes, good-looking stuff, and a five-for-five in save opportunities to start the season. That’s that.
  • Ian Stewart was apparently back, formally, with the Iowa Cubs last night … but he did not play. Josh Vitters started at third (against Tyler Chatwood, a righty), and Stewart was not given one of the two pinch-hitting/subbing in opportunities in the game, either (Donnie Murphy and Edwin Maysonet got those). Feels like this is one of those situations where none of this is a coincidence. Gordon Wittenmyer suggests that, indeed, the organization is “ticked off.”
  • Stewart’s replacement at third base on the big team is Luis Valbuena, and he’s been getting love from all corners. As he should: his .368 wOBA, per FanGraphs, has him the sixth best offensive third baseman in baseball. FanGraphs loves his defense at third, too, so we could be looking at a very legitimate starting third baseman here.
  • Speaking of Iowa, the Cubs released reliever Cory Wade, one of the many relievers non-roster invitees who didn’t work out.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa didn’t get a chance to make his rehab appearance at Tennessee yesterday thanks to some nasty weather. He’ll try again today.
  • How long are the Cubs going to carry 6 outfielders on the 25-man roster? Short of a trade, though, there isn’t an obvious guy to boot.
  • Ryan Probasco interviewed me for a feature in the Daily Iowan. It makes me look good, so here’s the link. (In all seriousness, thanks to Ryan for reaching out. It was fun, and I appreciated the opportunity to chat.) The article actually made for a very nice thing to send to family members who still might wonder what exactly it is that I do.
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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