DENVER -- So what can we expect out of Chicago Cubs lefty Travis Wood when he takes the mound Friday afternoon against the Colorado Rockies? Are the Cubs getting the All-Star from 2013 or the pitcher that saw his ERA balloon to 5.03 last season, third worst in all of baseball among regular starters?
Wood talked all spring about putting last season behind him after going through a frustrating year on the mound.
“Last year was a big learning year,” Wood said at the beginning of spring training. “I always say you learn more when you fail than when you succeed because you see your flaws better. (Going) into 2014, I was like ‘all right, I’ve got it, I know how to do it.’ It was a humbling experience last year that you never ‘get it’ in this game.”
Let’s take a look at those flaws to get an idea of what to look for against the Rockies, who are off to a hot start. Day games at Coors Field are no picnic. From a pure numbers standpoint, Wood’s off-speed pitches betrayed him last year, especially against right-handed hitters. Most of that had to do with his location.
In 2013, Wood’s off-speed pitches produced these results: .200 batting average against, .375 slugging percentage, .260 against righties.
In 2014, the numbers jumped: .317 BA, .634 slugging, .404 against righties.
Let that sink in. Right-handed hitters had their way with Wood over 40 percent of the time when they hit an off-speed pitch. A game against the Milwaukee Brewers in late May comes to mind as their heavily right-handed lineup pounded Wood to right field to the tune of 10 hits in just 2 2/3 innings. He simply missed his spots, never coming inside. Everything was hit to right field.
This heat map illustrates the differences from 2013 to 2014 with Wood’s breaking ball:
As you can see, in 2013 Wood was coming in on hitters with a lot of success. Wood has a good fastball, but watch the location of his off-speed pitches Friday. If they’re over the plate -- like on the 2014 map -- or not far enough outside the zone, especially when he’s ahead in the count, it could make for a long afternoon. If you see him hit both the inside and outside corners while his off-speed pitches show enough movement to keep hitters from sitting on those pitches, then good results should come.