Chicago Cubs: Living up to tremendous expectations post-20 K game
In the aftermath of his historic outing, Wood was heavily placed under the microscope and built as the game’s next great pitcher. The fans unfairly expected him to repeat his dominant May 6 performance fifth day he took the mound, often considering it a down game if the gunslinger struck out only 10 or 12 batters.
The 21-year old rookie began feeling the pressure of such lofty expectations.
He finished his first year with a 13-6 record and a 3.40 ERA. More impressively, in just 166 2/3 innings pitched, he amassed an astronomical 233 strikeouts (12.6 K/9).
He helped the Cubs clinch the 1998 Wild Card and, despite missing the last month of the season due to issues with his elbow, won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
After his successful first season, fans couldn’t wait to see Wood blossom more so in his second. Unfortunately, they’d have to wait longer than expected as Wood tore his UCL in spring training and required Tommy John surgery. As a result, he missed the entire 1999 season.
Wood returned from his injury in 2000, starting 23 games, posting an 8-7 record. In 2001, he saw himself make progression and throwing more innings (174 1/3) and obtained his lowest ERA to date (3.36) as he went 12-6.
He pitched his first full season in 2002 for the last-place Cubs, appearing in 33 games. For the first time in his career, he notched over 200 innings (213 2/3) on his way to a 12-11 record with a 3.66 ERA. It appeared that Wood was back to full health and ready to become the pitcher that many thought he would be.