Those of you who read this week’s Dixon’s Picks have gotten something of a sneak preview here, but a guy who’s been one of the best pitchers throughout the early part of 2013 plays on the decidedly mediocre Chicago Cubs. Actually, four-fifths of their starting rotation has been solid, with Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Villanueva, and Scott Feldman producing solid statistics. If you’re good at math, you surely realize that I only counted three people there.
Joining that trio today is, Travis Wood, who has been the team’s best pitcher through the first month-and-a-half. Actually, he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball throughout that time. Let’s take a look at what he’s done.
Giving him a pretty line of this:
Also, in eight outings he’s posted a perfect, league leading, eight quality starts. That’s not always indicative of a great start but if it’s done every outing, it’s a sign of consistency and the numbers will be low. But none of that matters now. If he’s available to you now, you want to know what he’s going to do, not what’s been done. So, let’s take a look.
What Worries Me
I like Wood, I really do. But plenty concerns me here about the rest of the season. Let’s start with this:
Entering 2013, Wood had a career ERA of 4.22. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that he finishes the season with 200 innings pitched and a 3.60 ERA. Yes, you probably would have taken that in the beginning of the season, but that would be a 4.17 ERA from here on out.
What if his ERA is a little worse? Let’s say closer to 4.00. What if he doesn’t hit 200 innings? Between the majors and minors, he was right around that mark last year, but 200 Major League innings is quite a bit different from 156, and 41.1 in the minors. It’s going to be very hard for him to sustain this kind of run through September.
Also, remember that the weather’s been a little cool in the midwest and east throughout the 2013 season. There have been a lot of weather delays/postponements, and general cold weather in most of the Cubs’ games.
That’s going to change pretty soon. When the weather gets hot, the balls carry better, the pitchers get tired easier, and the conditions are generally more favorable for hitters. Wrigley Field is certainly not a pitcher’s park, nor are most of the NL Central’s ballparks. So, when the conditions become good for hitters, they become really good. For a pitcher like Wood, who has even struggled with walks this year, it seems like a recipe for disaster.
On the positive end, I will say that I think an offense with Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and Alfonso Soriano occupying the heart of it will eventually start scoring some runs and break out of the Bottom-10 of the league. But the Cubs bullpen is one of the worst in the league this year, and was last year, as well. The offense may score some more runs in support of Wood and the rest of the Cubs’ pitchers, but don’t be surprised to see plenty potential wins squandered in the late innings.
Say what you will about the win but in a standard league, it is one-quarter of the fantasy pitcher’s stats. For a guy who’s not a big strikeout guy that you’re probably expecting an ERA/WHIP drop from, not being able to pencil in a decent win total is a problem.
What I like
The scenario I posted above is a bit of a concern. I won’t say that I expect this kind of production from Wood for the rest of the season, but I do expect him to stay hot for a while. Assuming there are no injuries and that Wood takes the ball every fifth game for the Cubbies, look at his remaining probable first half outings.
- at Mets
- at Reds
- vs White Sox
- at Angels
- vs Reds
- at Mets
- vs Astros
- at Brewers
- at A’s
- vs Angels
- vs Cardinals
There are a few tough teams in there for sure, but Wood has already done a good job against some good offenses this year. Yes, his stats have been padded a bit by the likes of the Padres and Marlins, but he’s done just fine against the Brewers, Rangers, Reds, Cardinals, and Rockies.
When you start thinking about some of the better hitters that Wood will face, the outlook doesn’t look too bad. What do Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Ike Davis, Josh Hamilton, and Adam Dunn all have in common? Well, they’re all dangerous hitters. And no, I am not putting Dunn on the same level as Votto, but he can run into a ball on occasion. But they’re also all lefties, and lefties have hit just over .200 against Wood in his career. So, all of a sudden, even the bad matchups don’t look so bad.
What I think
There are no doubt some drawbacks here. Wood’s done extremely well this year, which means that you can expect things to level out at some point.
There are two questions to ask here, though?
- How much will they level out?
- How soon will it happen?
Question 1: I am expecting something around a 3.60 ERA this year from Wood. But a 4.22 ERA from this point on isn’t bad. Also, It wouldn’t at all surprise me to see him closer to 3.40, and I don’t think he’ll finish much higher than 3.80. So, I am not expecting too much of a leveling off, even if he doesn’t remain a Cy Young contender all year.
Question 2: I like the matchups for the rest of the first half. I especially like them if the Angels continue to struggle like they have.
So, what I’d advise you to do is to go out and grab him right now. He may eventually level out a little bit, but I haven’t seen any signs of that happening yet. Worrying about leveling out is fine, but don’t act on those fears until it starts to happen.