How Good Has Travis Wood Been, and Does He Merit an Extension? And Other Bullets

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How Good Has Travis Wood Been, and Does He Merit an Extension? And Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

travis wood beardThe American League beat the National League last night 3-0 in an All-Star Game dominated by pitching. There was also a very cool moment when Mariano Rivera entered the game in the 8th inning, and the players stayed off the field so that he could have it all to himself. He got the standing ovation as ‘Enter Sandman’ played.

  • Travis Wood, the Cubs’ lone All-Star rep, did not make it into the game, even as a pinch hitter. He still got to do the whole All-Star experience thing, and, while there, he was asked about his future with the Cubs. Per CSN: “Theo and Jed and them are moving in the right direction. We’ve got a great group of guys there, and everybody plays hard and as of late we’ve played solid ball …. I’d love to be a part of the core group and stay around Chicago for a while, but that’s out of my hands. So I just take the ball every time they give it to me and try to help the team win.”
  • Wood, 26, is arbitration-eligible for the first time next year, so he remains under team control for three years. While I have no doubt that the Cubs would like to keep him for those three years, I think it remains unclear whether the risk of guaranteeing big dollars up front for Wood is outweighed by the upside he offers on a four or five-year extension. Pitchers are riskier pieces than positional players, and Wood is only just now emerging as a consistently good starter. The incentive to lock him up – or even just to get cost certainty in his arbitration years – might not be as strong as some other players in the core. None of that is a knock on Wood. It’s just a reflection of the nature of pitchers, of late-rising talents (so to speak), and of the arbitration process. I’m not sure how much the Cubs lose by going year-to-year on Wood, and I’m not sure how much they gain by paying him all of that money today. As with all things, however, on the right deal, there could be some value for both sides.
  • Speaking of Wood, here’s a Guest Bullet from BN’er Michael Wonsover with some additional thoughts on Wood, entering into his final start of the first half on Sunday:

Wood boasts the 10th best ERA (2.69) in MLB and is tied with Patrick Corbin for the fifth best WHIP (0.98) in the NL. Although his 80 K’s in 110.1 innings is nothing out of this world, that number is actually solid for a control pitcher. Perhaps Wood’s strongest statistic is his .192 opponent’s batting average, which ranks second in all of baseball. Lefties might as well give up against Wood, as he’s allowed only 11 hits all season to left-handed batters (.120 average).

Wood’s advanced statistics are also outstanding. Wood’s WPA (win probability added) ranks 12th in the majors at 1.95. WPA determines how much a player has improved his teams’ win expectancy to this point in the season. His WAR (wins above replacement) of 2.1 is 14th best among NL pitchers (but surprisingly only second on the team behind Jeff Samardzija). Wood’s 0.6 WAR as a batter is actually two full wins higher than Starlin Castro’s (man it felt weird typing that sentence). Despite having the eighth slowest average velocity on his fastball in the NL at 89.2 MPH, his wFB/C (runs saved from his fastball per 100 fastballs thrown) of 1.20 ranks seventh in the NL among qualified pitchers. His slider, which he throws 12 percent of the time, is the 19th best in the NL according to wSL/C. Perhaps the most pitch that has led to Wood’s improvement this season is his cutter. Wood uses his cutter nearly a third of the time (only Kevin Correia uses the pitch more often) and sports a NL-leading 2.86 wCT/C. The pitch is especially effective cutting into right-handed batters. All of these numbers are quite amazing for a player who appeared in seven minor league games last season.

  • Well all know the variance issue with Wood – i.e., his probably-unsustainably-low BABIP – and Michael goes on to point that out. But, for today, let’s just enjoy how good Wood has been. And, even with some increase in the BABIP, he’s still likely to be an effective mid-rotation starter, if not an annual All-Star.
  • Vine Line on the Cubs’ breakout prospect of 2013: Arismendy Alcantara. Smokies on Radio has video on the AA Tennessee Smokies’ All-Stars, including Alcantara.
  • Commissioner Bud Selig was asked about the Wrigley Field renovation process, and he certainly didn’t sound concerned. “I’m very optimistic,” Selig said, per CSN. “I know they’re optimistic and I’m optimistic. As you know, Chicago politics don’t always move smoothly. But I’m very optimistic. It’s not something I would say is a concern of mine now because it’s far enough down the line.” Selig has been something of a private champion of the Cubs’ efforts to get Wrigley Field renovated (he has an interest in the Cubs preserving, and staying at, Wrigley Field), so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he was getting periodic update from Tom Ricketts. And, in that instance, if Selig has confidence, you could extrapolate that the Ricketts Family has confidence (like, legit confidence, not just say-it-publicly-just-in-case confidence).
  • If you were looking to contact BN’er Oswego Chris about his book offer from yesterday, you can also check in with him on the Message Board.
  • The Wife made an offer about the Blogathon fundraiser for Make-A-Wish yesterday, so check that out if you didn’t see it.
  • FanGraphs is ranking players on their trade value (considering contracts), and Anthony Rizzo comes in at number 37, and Jeff Samardzija is at 41. Starlin Castro would not be on the list. That makes for an interesting thought experiment – the one suggested by the articles – do you believe a team would trade more to get Jeff Samardzija today than to get Starlin Castro? I’m not so sure about that.

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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.