Oh man, it’s back to real life! After an awesome weekend in DC to see my Brewers (I’ll share some fun graphics next week), it’s back to pitching and back to Wood jokes. And of course I mean the criminally (for a stretch) underrated Alex Wood.
Wood starting chucking phenomenally out of the gates, with blistering Ks and ratios. But when Mike Minor got off the DL and Aaron Harang deciding not to suck this year, Wood could not chuck any more wood. [Hah – you thought Wood jokes were going the other way, huh?!] Repeatably getting hit out of the bullpen, the Braves finally decided to move him down to AAA to [re]stretch out to get back into the rotation.
Upon [re]arrival in late June, Wood had a lot of “meh”, but I was still all in. I remember there were some drop Wood comments and I remained steadfast in my Woodward ways. And with another good start yesterday, I decided to take a deeper look into his pitch-by-pitch performance to be sure my Wood was warranted:
First Inning: Wood’s first pitch is an 89 MPH fastball low and outside to Grady Sizemore and we’re underway. Fastball again at 90 is in there, but an 80 MPH curve that hung a tad in the zone is poked between first and second for a tough-luck single. It was a dribbler in the perfect spot – it will score low for the Gamescore+. Up is Jimmy Rollins who fouls off the first pitch fastball, curveball hangs way outside, another curve just misses the outside corner, fastball fouled back to even it at 2-2, 90 again on the hands fouled back, then a nasty curveball sweeping across the zone gets a swing-and-miss for the first out. Chase Utley takes a fastball that looked good just outside, and a high fastball is popped out to short for an easy second out. Trade bait, which I guess is better than jail bait, Marlon Byrd takes a curveball outside, fastball nearly right down the middle at 90 is swung through, 1-1.
With that kind of deception in his delivery, he can get away with those. Fastball is outside, then a perfectly placed fastball on the low inside corner is fouled off, 2-2 fastball on the outer edge fouled, and Wood dials up his first change-up and Byrd flies it out weakly to center to end the inning.
Second Inning: And we’ve got some rain rolling in, it started dribbling in the first, but it’s a pretty steady mist-ish rain now. Wood starts Domonic Brown with a fastball low as he hopes to battle the environment, heater outside, fastball again is in there, nasty, and yes deserving of all caps NASTY change-up gets a swing-and-miss, 2-2.
Then a fastball on the hands – first time this AB Wood went inside – is popped out to short for an easy out. Wood is outside with a fastball to John Mayberry, perfect change-up on the inside edge is swung over, perfect fastball on the low outside corner gets the call, 1-2 heater is just inside, but the 2-2 is a hanging change-up – it didn’t have that downward bite as the 1-0 pitch – and Mayberry turns on it for a homer. It was out by a mere foot and Mayberry is a lefty killer – but that said, it was a hanger. Hoping to bounce back, Wood pounds the zone with the fastball for strike one on Cody Asche, fastball again nips the outer black, then Wood goes to the change-up and it’s tipped foul into the mitt for a three pitch K. Koyie Hill takes a fastball outside, fastball again up there is fouled off, fastball is in there, fastball again low with great sink on it, 2-2 fastball fouled back, then a curveball that hung a bit is one of the softest bloop singles you’ll ever see finding shallow right field. Even though the curve hung, it got on Hill’s hands but the spin and location was perfect to get a lucky hit. Fastball is in there to opposing pitcher Kyle Kendrick, fastball again low, and yet again the heater is grounded weakly to short to get out of the inning.
Third Inning: Wood hasn’t been the most efficient at 39 pitches, but he’s pounded in the fastballs and now supports a 2-1 lead. He’s back to the top of the order and starts Sizemore with a fastball in there, fastball again inside, then fastball low on the bottom black is lined to third for a hard-hit out. That makes up for that first inning single! Fastball low to Rollins, then one in there, change-up floats outside, then change-up again is yanked to short for a routine grounder, two quick outs. Utley takes a strike in there, a good curveball that started inside and bent into the zone is taken for strike two, then Wood goes curve again but sweeps it across the zone and dipping low for a nasty three-pitch strikeout with Utley unable to hold.
He gone, gone chasin’ waterfalls!
Fourth Inning: Right off an efficient inning, Wood gets 4 more runs of support for a a 6-1 lead and starts Byrd with a fastball in there, another fastball is perfect on the lower inside black, 0-2 fastball goes outside, that same sweeping curveball almost gets Byrd to bite but it’s 2-2, fastball is way outside, then the payoff pitch is a fastball right down broadway. Just like the first GIF, Byrd swings through it. First pitch curve gets the zone to Brown, fastball outside, another fastball is outside, heater again swung-through, you guessed it – fastball again – fouled back, then the curveball dies across the zone and low and Brown gets a tiny piece, but straight into the mitt for K numero 5. Mayberry fouls off the first fastball – let’s see if Wood goes to a change-up this AB like the HR – fastball again outside is whiffed on, then the 0-2 Wood dials up to 92 and goes too far inside and almost hits him. Wood reached back for a little extra there. Fastball outside fouled off, then a hanging curveball that was easily ball 2 is reached for and poked to right for an easy flyout and another 1-2-3 inning.
Fifth Inning: Wood is right back to throwing strikes with a surveball in there to Asche, fastball on the inside edge is swung over, 0-2 is a heater that was really close to that outside black, 1-2. Wood brings it closer in and takes a step towards third thinking that heater was strike three, but it’s 2-2. But no matter, Wood goes to another great curveball to get him swinging.
Hill watches a fastball dip low, then a change-up on the outside edge is flown out to center for an easy second out. The Phillies leave in Kendrick to hit and he takes a fastball in there, fastball is slashed foul, change-up is taken low, then he paints the outside lower black and Ks Kendrick looking. Lot’s of Ks at the end of that sentence, and in this game (womp womp)!
Sixth Inning: Rain really starting to come down now, and Wood is barely low with a change, then fastball in the same spot is absolutely ripped but just foul down the first base line. Sizemore is killing it lately for his new team. Change-up high is taken, fastball barely misses the outside low corner, curveball floats too high, and the payoff pitch is a fastball on the hands that ties up Sizemore for Wood’s 8th K swinging. Great pitch. J-Roll takes a change-up outside, fastball is hit foul, then a “now you see me, now you don’t” curve is swung way over, 1-2. Fastball runs way too far in, then fastball again is low, full count. First payoff pitch is a fastball spoiled, Rollins fouls another, then the 8th pitch of the AB is a change-up flied to right for an easy out. Wood pounds the zone on Utley for strike one, absolutely nasty change-up on the hands ties him up 0-2, fastball is way outside, then the 1-2 high fastball is grounded to Freddie Freeman, who takes it unassisted to end the inning. After a lengthy rain delay, the Braves easily hang on to get Wood the W.
Final Line: W 6.0 IP 95 Pitches (62 Strikes) 1 ER 3 Hits 0 Walks 8 K Gamescore: 70 Gamescore+: 75.6
Final Analysis: Wood was awesome. Everything I had hoped for since his re-insertion into the rotation came to be in this one. An incredible aspect of this game is 8 Ks to 0 BBs while playing through on-and-off rain. Wood was able to fight through the moisture and maintain his control. As indicated in his Gamsescore+ vs. his Gamescore, Wood cruised through the Phillies with high Ks, all but one out was weakly hit, and really only the homer of the three hits was hit hard. This was a truly a dominant outing.
Wood’s fastball had all sorts of life, not to mention with that deception in his herky-jerky mechanics, topping out at 92 but usually 89-90. The old adage of “movement and location beats velocity” is 100% true for Wood. It seemed like he was at about 70-75% fastballs this game, when he’s at 60% fastball-usage this season. With his fastball overmatching the Phillies, his off-speed worked even better, with a fantastic change-up that dies out of the zone. Really his only mistake with that pitch was the Mayberry homer which hung on the inside edge. Then the curveball – which had great 10-4 life – swept across the zone for several whiffs. What was great to see with that pitch was it’s effectiveness on both righties and lefties. He hung a few, but they were mightily outside and he never missed with it in the zone.
So why did the fantasy community seem to give up on Wood after his return? Well, the back-to-back 3 walk games a couple starts ago was no fun, and the Ks were slipping off. Even though this was against a lefty-heavy Philly line-up (who have struggled for offensive consistency regardless), I think Wood is ready for a monster second half. The mechanics seem to worry a lot of scouts who think injury is a near certainty, but I’m kind of tired of hearing that. Matt Moore had one of the smoothest lefty deliveries you’ll ever see, and he had the dreaded TJ! That’s not a worry for me (at least, no more than vs. any other pitcher), and neither is the innings limit since the failed experiment to the bullpen cut down his IP. I confidently have him a top 30 pitcher, and if you can try and deal for him as such with someone undervaluing, I’d try to add some Wood to bolster your rotation.
JB’s Updated Top 100 SP
(rankings based on 12-team Roto, and from this point to the end of season – green for risers, red for fallers)
Dropped Out: Vance Worley, Pittsburgh Pirates (bullpen)
- Overall, not too much on the adjustments with only three games since the break. “Move Wainwright down after that awful All-Star Game performance!” That’s what the sarcastic version of my inner monologue sounds like… Although I will say I may have missed someone since I’m still in post-Brewers series hangover and added two in while only taking one out. Bonus points to the first commenter who can figure it out! Because I sure as hell couldn’t…
- So one of my worst calls this year was David Price. The worry about changing teams maybe jacking something up is still on my mind, but he’s too good. And what if he goes to the NL? Could he do better than CC Sabathia in that Brewers run?!
- Latos’ low velocity (92.6 on fastballs last year, 90.3 this year) and sluggish K rate have me scared it’s catching up to him. Hopefully he loosens up as the second half wears on.
- I’m not hitting the panic button yet, but sheesh was Yordano awful yesterday. I wonder if ESPN Baseball Tonight’s piece on him tipping pitches against the Rays has messed something up. I tried finding the video for it, but it was his glove placement right before delivering fastball vs. change-up. Maybe a tweak to fix that threw him completely off.
- Matt Garza is the most annoying pitcher. Ever.
- I know he’s off yet another ridiculous start, but I can still only barely rank Despaigne. Just not the best stuff and I think teams will adjust, and adjust hard.
- Danny Salazar is getting called up for tomorrow against the Twins, but I don’t think he’s even close to a lock in the rotation yet, so he remains unranked projecting for ROS.
Thoughts on Wood? Figure out my booboo in the ranks? Shoot your comments below – I will be a little slow with comments until later tonight – and happy pitching post-ASB!