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Entries in Travis Wood (4)

Monday
Jul082013

Travis Wood's Cutter: Changing Approach, Results

In the midst of his second season as a member of the Chicago Cubs' starting rotation, 26-year-old Travis Wood has quietly staked his claim as one of baseball's best left-handed starters as exhibited by his selection to the NL All-Star squad.

Posting a 4.27 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 26 starts with Chicago in 2012, Wood has lowered his earned run total by nearly two, boasting a 2.69 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 17 starts so far this season, which rank fourth and fifth-best, respectively, among qualifying southpaw starters.

Wood's Improved Cutter

What's stood out in particular this season for Wood, compared to last, has been the effectiveness of his cutter against right-handed batters.

Wood's  Cutter Against Righties

2012

2013

BAbip

.295

.206

SLG%

.491

.310

HR/FB%

10.9%

6.8%

  • Right-handed batters have struggled to tally up extra-base hits at the same frequency in which they did last season, evidenced by a slugging percentage reduction of .181.
  • They have struggled to find holes in defenses, shown by Wood's .206 BAbip, which ranks as the lowest mark among qualified left-handed starters this season.
  • Home runs have been hard to come by compared to last season, and Wood's 6.8% home-run-to-fly-ball rate ranks as the sixth-best among qualified left-handed starters in 2013.

Wood's improvements can be traced to his command of the pitch.

Pitch frequency of Wood's cutter and BABIP of right-handed hitters in 2012

  • Last season, Wood struggled to command the pitch to any one region of the strike zone and mainly left the pitch up belt-high. Due to that, plus the angle of the pitch coming across the plate, right-handed batters lit up any cutter left over the outside portion of the plate, which resulted in a .295 BAbip mark for the season.

And this season:

 

  • This season, Wood has strayed away from jamming right-handed batters on the inside portion of the plate with the pitch, as he did in 2012. Instead, he has concentrated his cutter more toward the middle and outer portion of the plate.

 

Good Movement

Of course, command is reliant on other variables, such as movement of the pitch and Wood's cutter is no exception.

 Wood's Cutter

2012

2013

Horizontal Velo. Across Plate

-5.5 ft/sec.

-4.8 ft/sec.

Vertical Break

7.0 in.

8.6 in.

Wood's cutter has had less horizontal velocity across the plate this season compared to last, but has on average had more vertical break to it than last season. This reduction in horizontal velocity is the main reason why the pitch has been less focused on the inner portion of the plate against right-handed batters, and the increase in vertical break could be why right-handed batters are struggling to put quality contact on the ball this season compared to last.

Unless right-handed batters are willing to adjust to the changes in movement and improving command of the pitch, Wood's cutter could make him what manager Dale Sveum called him earlier in the season -- baseball's best pitcher.

Saturday
Jun082013

One and D'oh!

Al Michaels has always been one of my favorite announcers, and while many of you may think of him as a football announcer or asking the immortal question, "Do you believe in miracles?", I always loved his work in baseball.

Like many announcers, the Brooklyn-born Michaels has certain tells in their speech as to their background. With Michaels, I would always wait for the first pitch of an at bat to a batter to hear Michaels channel his inner not-yet-created Homer Simpson state, "The count is one and d'oh."

Here's a look at that first pitch ball.

The 1-0 pitch

Pitchers don't want to go 1-0. It's better than giving a hit on 0-0, but that's it. Everything else is worse. You fall behind and immediately give an advantage to the batter as a result.

The difference between 0-1 and 1-0

SplitPAABRH2B3BHRBAOBPSLGOPSTB
1-0 Count 4589 4439 751 1444 308 37 188 .325 .326 .538 .864 2390
0-1 Count 6106 5867 808 1836 347 29 166 .313 .320 .467 .787 2739
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/8/2013.

Who are the best 1-0 pitchers?

There are 10 pitchers who have held batters to under a .200 batting average against on 1-0 pitches.

Doug Fister has been incredible only allowing one hit, an infield single to Mark DeRosa on 4/11 in the midst of a Tigers blowout of the Jays.

Clay Buchholz has been equally effective only allowing a Vernon Wells single in a Red Sox victory over the Yankees on 4/3.

The Tribe's Zach McAllister has permitted just two hits on the 1-0 count. 

 

Name

G

PA

AVG

OBP

SLUG

OPS

1

Doug  Fister  (DET)

12

21

0.053

0.143

0.053

0.195

2

Clay Buchholz (BOS)

11

12

0.083

0.083

0.083

0.167

3

Zach McAllister (CLE)

11

21

0.100

0.143

0.100

0.243

4

A.J. Griffin (OAK)

12

17

0.118

0.118

0.118

0.235

5

Travis Wood (CHC)

12

20

0.150

0.150

0.200

0.350

6

C.J. Wilson (LAA)

12

18

0.176

0.222

0.353

0.575

7

Nick Tepesch (TEX)

11

17

0.176

0.176

0.529

0.706

8

Jon Niese (NYM)

11

16

0.188

0.188

0.313

0.500

9

Lance Lynn (STL)

12

17

0.188

0.188

0.250

0.438

10

Jason Hammel (BAL)

13

22

0.190

0.182

0.286

0.468

 

The pitchers who struggle on 1-0

There are 24 pitchers who have a .400+ batting average against them on 1-0 counts. 

These are the seven worst.

 

 

G

PA

AVG

OBP

SLUG

OPS

1

Kris Medlen (ATL)

12

13

0.667

0.667

1.000

1.667

2

Dillon Gee (NYM)

12

26

0.654

0.654

0.962

1.615

3

Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE)

12

15

0.571

0.533

0.714

1.248

4

Ryan Dempster (BOS)

12

12

0.545

0.500

1.455

1.955

5

Marco Estrada (MIL)

12

22

0.545

0.545

1.091

1.636

6

Adam Wainwright (STL)

13

30

0.483

0.483

0.621

1.103

7

R.A. Dickey (TOR)

13

26

0.480

0.462

0.960

1.422

Nine to Know

  1. R.A. Dickey has thrown 166 1-0 pitches, Mark Buehrle 159, James Shields 148, constituting the three most 1-0 counts on batters.
  2. R.A. Dickey has thrown 104 1-0 strikes, Mark Buehrle 107, and Jon Lester 100
  3. Kevin Correia has had 39 1-0 plate appearances.
  4. Dillon Gee has has surrendered 17 1-0 hits.
  5. Marco Estrada and Kevin Correia have each allowed four 1-0 homers.
  6. Cliff Lee has produced 17 foul balls 1-0 counts.
  7. After 1-0, Jordan Zimmermann has gone 1-1 51 times, the most in the majors.
  8. After 1-0, R.A. Dickey and Edinson Volquez have gone 2-0 62 times, the most in the majors
  9. After 1-0, Jason Marquis has walked the batter 29 times, Tim Lincecum, Dickey, and Lucas Harrell 28 times each, the most in the majors.

There you go, my "one and d'oh" salute to the great Al Michaels.

Wednesday
Apr242013

The Cubs starters deserve a better fate

Entering action on April 24, whose starting pitching has been better this season, the Cubs or the Giants?

Let me ask you another question, entering action on April 24, whose starting pitching has been better this season, the Cubs, Marlins or Padres?

Let me answer both questions this way: The Cubs starting pitching deserve better

To answer the first question: the Cubs rotation has a 3.04 ERA, trailing only the Cardinals and Braves (mouse over the team icons to see the ERA and wins), but they only have three wins. The Giants starters have a 4.41 ERA and nine wins.

As for the second question:  the Cubs, Marlins and Padres starters all have just three wins, but the Cubs starters have a 3.04 ERA, the Marlins starters have a 4.20 ERA and the Padres starters have a 5.87 ERA. 

Carlos Villanueva, Travis Wood, and Jeff Samardzija are the guys to feel badly for 

 

Hard to believe that Carlos Marmol leads this team with two wins.

The Cubs starters deserve better, but when you combine a weak offense and shaky defense this is what you get.