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What's gotten into Travis Wood?

By Thomas J. Harrigan, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - If you glance at the Chicago Cubs' 2014 statistics and see that a pitcher named Wood has 28 strikeouts in 25 innings, you might think Kerry came out of retirement.

But it's been left-hander Travis Wood regularly sending hitters back to the dugout contact-less in 2014.

He's also making me look just as silly as opposing batters.

I mentioned Wood as one of the pitchers due for regression in 2014 after he had a 3.11 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP over 200 innings last season.

My logic: Wood had pitched to a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) below .250 (nearly 50 points below MLB average) in two straight seasons, owned a 425/186 K/BB in 564 2/3 career innings (6.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9) and was prone to homers due to his propensity to give up nearly 45 percent fly balls.

So far, he has a 2.44 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and a 28/4 K/BB.

Wood has experienced extreme BABIP regression to the point where he's now on the unlucky side with a BABIP of .338, but it hasn't mattered because his fastball command has been excellent and he has been generating more swings and misses than ever before by a large margin.

His whiff rate (percentage of total pitches batters swing at and miss) is 11.5 percent, according to baseball-reference.com. It was 8.3 percent in his first four seasons.

His strikes looking have also increased and both his balls in play and foul- ball strikes are down.

The left-hander hasn't been throwing any harder with his four-seam fastball -- he's still sitting at 89 mph -- but batters haven't been able to get, ahem, wood on it.

According to Brooks Baseball's PITCHf/x tool, Wood has a whiff rate of 12.38 percent on four-seam fastballs this season, up from 9.29 percent last year.

While the cutter already was Wood's most-used pitch the past two seasons, he has increased the usage of it to 42 percent and has induced whiffs on 14.8 percent of his cutters, up from 7.61 percent in 2013.

Batters have been pounding the cutter into the ground -- Wood's ground- ball rate on the pitch is 59.1 percent after finishing at 37.4 percent in 2013.

The result is that Wood's overall ground-ball rate is up from 33.2 percent to 43.4 percent and his fly-ball rate is down by a nearly identical margin.

I realize that he's only 25 innings into the season, but these are extremely positive signs for Wood as he attempts to stave off the regression that seemed imminent before the year began.

04/22 17:08:07 ET


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