Travis Wood’s season full of ups-and-downs for Chicago Cubs
Monday’s rocky start against the St. Louis Cardinals epitomized the struggles Chicago Cubs’ left-hander Travis Wood has endured all season long. With what was likely his final start of the season now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to take a look at just what went wrong for the southpaw in 2014.
"“It wasn’t a good year for me, overall,” Wood told ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers 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.”"
Coming off the first All-Star selection of his Major League career, the former second-round pick entered 2014 as one of the leaders on the Cubs’ staff, alongside ace Jeff Samardzija. In 2013, Wood broke the 200-innings plateau for the first time, pitching to the tune of a 3.11 earned run average and 1.145 WHIP – a breakout season for the left-hander.
This season began in a similar fashion, with Wood going 1-3, but posting a solid 3.52 ERA while averaging 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. The key distinction between the southpaw’s work in March and April and the rest of the season was his ability to avoid being hurt by the base-on-balls. An impressive 4.43 SO/BB ratio had many thinking that 2013 was no anomaly, but rather a new “normal” for Wood.
However, once May rolled around, the wheels came off for the Chicago left-hander, although one wouldn’t think it based on his 6-2 record. His earned run average skyrocketed, soaring to a 6.62 mark, and his SO/BB ratio plummeted from the aforementioned 4.43 down to 1.93. This began a back-and-forth pattern that would span the duration of the season for Wood, eliminating any long-term stability the Cubs sought from him in the rotation.
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He alternated between posting an earned run average between 3.00 and 4.00 and then north of 6.00 every month from the start of the season on. In March/April, June and August, Wood was respectable for Chicago, but in May, July and September, he struggled in virtually every start. September proved to be the left-hander’s worst month of the season, posting a 9.24 ERA, 2.053 WHIP and lasting just 12 2/3 innings combined between three starts.
His 8-13 record for the season wasn’t that different from his 9-12 clip from last season, when, as noted, he was a National League All-Star. However, despite his noted struggles in 2014, Wood did pitch 173 2/3 innings for Chicago – which will lead the team by season’s end, given the trade of Samardzija and Jason Hammel in early July. His 146 strikeouts this season were a career-high, despite pitching over 25 innings less than last year. However, walks and leaving pitches out over the heart of the plate hurt him time and time again throughout 2014.
Run support didn’t seem to impact Wood’s performance on the mound. When the Cubs scored more than six runs, which took place nine times with the lefty on the hill in 2014, Wood was 3-1. However, his 1.620 WHIP in those starts demonstrates his struggles – even when staked to comfortable leads. He allowed more than five earned runs seven times this season – something that happened just twice in a career-high 32 starts last year.
With the Cubs expected to make offseason moves to bolster the pitching staff, the question of whether or not Wood will even be in the rotation next season – or even the Cubs’ roster – remains to be seen. However, one thing is clear. The left-hander will need to re-establish himself as a reliable, consistent innings-eater heading into his age 28 season if he hopes to be a major piece for any contending team.