“It wasn’t a good year for me, overall,” Wood said after the Cubs lost 8-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. “You can’t live off what you did last year. Or any year.”
Truer words could not have been spoken by the 27-year-old. Very little went right, as his command simply disappeared after a turn-the-corner type of season in 2013. His ERA rose from 3.11 at the end of last season to 5.03 after Monday's performance, in which he gave up six earned runs over five innings and fell to 8-13.
“I did feel better about it than the numbers,” Wood said. “I made some good pitches tonight.”
That might be true, but considering the type of pitcher he is, Wood needs to make good pitches all the time -- not just here and there. He breezed through the first three innings but then began to get hit.
“He started missing down,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.
Wood needs that command every time he takes the mound. His stuff isn’t going to blow anyone away, so if he misses his spots, he’s in trouble. More times than not this season, he has missed. That's reflected in his walk percentage -- about 10 percent, a career high. He just never made the big pitch when he needed it. For example, his double-play percentage was just 7 percent. He induced 11 in about 150 chances. By comparison, rookie Kyle Hendricks has 10 induced double plays in 63 chances (16 percent). The most telling number, however, was the hits given up. In 173⅔ innings pitched, Wood gave up 190 hits. That’s 27 more than he gave up last year in less than 27 fewer innings pitched.
“I’m sure that as he settles into the winter he’ll be able to revisit what the season was like and take a step back and try to regroup,” Renteria said.
So what does this forgettable season mean for Wood moving forward? He’s arbitration-eligible after earning $3.9 million, which was a raise of nearly $3.5 million from the year before. There won’t be that kind of jump next year as Wood is most likely the Cubs' No. 4 starter, at best, heading into spring training. As a southpaw, he gets another chance to show 2013 was the real Wood, not 2014. But the leash becomes shorter. Much shorter.
“You learn a lot more about yourself as a pitcher when things aren’t good as opposed to when things are,” Wood said. “We’ll take that into the offseason and work on it.”
Full command of his pitches for 30-plus starts is the goal for next season. Wood has had two bad years and one good one for the Cubs. Locking him up as a core player is going to have to wait until he definitively proves it -- if he’s indeed back on the mound for the Cubs again.
“Next year will be a fresh year and we’ll start from scratch,” Wood said.