Yesterday, I delved into the sheer insanity that is considering Edwin Jackson for the Chicago Cubs’ final rotation spot. Today is my half-day at work, so I’d like to keep my blood pressure a bit lower and talk about who I believe is the front-runner for the job, former All-Star lefty Travis Wood.
First-year Cubs skipper Joe Maddon spoke about the competition for the final opening in the staff with MLB.com earlier this week – saying that honesty was his approach to the intensely competitive battle.
"“If I tell you the truth, you might be upset with me for about a week or two, but then you’re going to be OK. But if I lie to you, you’re going to hate me forever. If you shoot somebody between the eyes honestly, they might leave the room upset, they might slam the door, they might drive out of the parking lot quick, they might go home and hopefully not hit their dog. Eventually, they come back because you told them the truth. Every professional person I’ve ever been around really appreciates that.”"
Last season was forgettable for Wood, who pitched to a career-worst 5.03 earned run average for the Cubs – although he gutted his way through 31 starts, topping 170 innings of work for the second consecutive campaign, providing some value to former manager Ricky Renteria.
More than anything else, it was consistency and control issues that plagued the 28-year-old left-hander in 2014. Despite pitching 26 1/3 fewer innings than the year prior, Wood issued 10 more walks to opposing hitters – and throughout the course of the entire season, he never had good back-to-back months.
Here’s a look at just how inconsistent Wood was last season – after emerging as one of the lone bright spots for the Cubs’ staff in 2013.
As demonstrated above, 2014 was a see-saw for Wood, who broke onto the scene with the division rival Cincinnati Reds back in 2010.
What made him so valuable in 2013 with Chicago was the fact that he not only ate up a large chunk of innings (eclipsing the 200-inning plateau for the first time in his career) – but he was also incredibly effective all season long.
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Some of the pitches Wood may not have gotten last year could potentially fall in his favor more with the new catching tandem of David Ross and Miguel Montero installed in Chicago. That being said, the veteran seems to have learned a great deal from his struggles in 2014 – a promising sign moving forward.
"“Last year was a big learning year,” Wood told ESPN last month. “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 got it, I know how to do it’. It was a humbling experience last year that you never ‘get it’ in this game.”"
Many of Wood’s peripheral numbers suggest he’s a prime candidate to bounce back in 2015. The Cubs don’t need the lefty to return to his All-Star form from two years ago. They need someone who can keep his earned run average around the 4.00 mark and limit the amount of self-inflicted damage.
Of all the candidates vying for this final spot in the Chicago Cubs’ rotation, the make-up and experience of Wood make him, in my opinion, the best choice for a club hoping to contend for a division title in 2015.