Chicago Cubs Greatest Rookie Seasons of All-Time – #3: Kerry Wood (1998)
No Cubs pitcher has ever burst onto the big league season quite like Kerry Wood. As we all know, he threw a one-hit shutout while striking out 20 Houston Astros in just his fifth big league start back on May 6, 1998. While it deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest single-game achievements in team history, there was so much more to Kerry Wood than just that one game.
A first round draft pick in 1995, Wood had a tremendous 1998 campaign overall, going 13-6 with a 3.40 ERA while striking out an incredible 233 batters in 166 2/3 innings. Wood also led the league by allowing just 6.3 hits per nine innings, while his 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings also led the league. Wood would miss the final month of the season due to injury, though he did get a start against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series.
Unfortunately, that injury would foreshadow more to come throughout Wood’s career. He had to sit out all of 1999, and while he was a star for the Cubs during their magical 2003 run, injuries eventually forced him into a relief role. He actually had some success in that role, serving as the closer for the 2008 team that won the NL Central division.
Wood retired in 2012, and while he remains a Cubs legend, injuries prevented him from moving into elite territory in Cubs history. Still, that 1998 season remains one of the great stories in team history, as he, along with Sammy Sosa, led the team to the playoffs and brought in a lot of new Cubs fans.