The Chicago Cubs’ decision to sign Brian Duensing over Travis Wood has turned out spectacularly through three months of the 2017 season.
During the offseason, the Chicago Cubs lost a key contributor to their World Series championship squad in Travis Wood. Wood, 30, signed a two-year contract with the Kansas City Royals; unlike the Cubs, the Royals promised Wood an opportunity to contend for a spot in the starting rotation.
At first, the loss of Wood left a hole in the Cubs pitching staff; in 2015 and 2016, he appeared in 54 and 77 games, respectively, anchoring the team’s middle relief corps. After pitching to a promising 3.84 ERA in 2015, Wood’s 2.95 ERA in 2016 was third lowest among Cubs relievers (minimum 50 appearances with the team).
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Because of Wood’s desire to start, the Cubs actually signed left-hander Brian Duensing, 34, in December, two months before Wood signed with the Royals. While the team offered Wood a contract, they had to address their need for a lefty reliever if he decided to sign with another team.
As strange as it may seem, losing Wood and his 2.95 ERA has turned out better for the Cubs than one could have predicted. In 26 games (one start) with the Royals, Wood has a 6.06 ERA in 32.2 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .308 against him, including .329 in Royals’ home games.
Duensing one of team’s most reliable relievers
On the other hand, Duensing has been more than reliable out of the Cubs bullpen this season. In 32 games (35.1 innings pitched) Duensing has a 3.06 ERA, with opponents hitting just .250 against him.
Wood’s 2017 campaign has not been a total wash, however. After pitching to an 18.56 ERA in April and 5.11 ERA in May, his June ERA was a spectacular 1.64. Essentially, while his overall ERA is sub par, his poor April has skewed the statistic.
At the same time, Duensing did not get off to the best of starts in his own right; during the month of April, he pitched to an 8.10 ERA. Like Wood, Duensing recovered in May (1.06 ERA) and June (3.48 ERA); essentially, poor starts impacted both pitchers, but Duensing has fared better overall regardless.
Before his exit, Wood was the most-tenured Cub and pitched admirably for five seasons. Ultimately, however, the Cubs wound up with the better of two relievers this season in Duensing, while Wood got the opportunity to start that he wanted.
With half a season to go, Wood and Duensing both could improve their numbers from where they stand. Until then, though, the Cubs decision to bring in Duensing and let Wood go clearly was the right choice.