By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) It’s been a tale of two seasons for Cub left-hander Travis Wood.
Coming off of a promising 2013 season, Wood has been hit hard and often by the opposition’s hitters throughout most of 2014. His overall workload has dropped by 26 1/3 innings this season, despite making just one fewer start in 2014 than in 2013 (31 to 32). He posted a 3.11 ERA last season, but it’s dipped to an ugly 5.03 this year.
How does a young lefty go from an All-Star back to a project in one calender year? Command, which appears to be the major issue when examining the rapid decline in production for Wood.
Efficient left-side control — or the lack thereof — has been the most consistent conversation point about Wood’s mediocre starts this year. Never overpowering, Wood used pinpoint control to lift himself to All-Star status last year. He hasn’t displayed the same the same control this season, as his walk rate jumped from 3.0 per nine innings to 3.9 per nine innings this season.
Wood will go back to work with the usual verve that he has exhibited in the past for his profession.
“It was not a good year for me,” Wood candidly admitted after making the final start of his season Monday, an 8-0 loss to the Cardinals that dropped him to 8-13. “With that being said, it showed me a lot about what I need to take into the offseason and work on. You learn a lot more about yourself as a pitcher when things aren’t going well, as opposed when things are. That is what I will take into the offseason and work at it.”
Though only 27, Wood won’t be automatically handed a starting job next April. He’s got to get his command back. A distraction of contract negotiations before the 2014 season that went bad may have been part of the up-and-down season Wood had. A three-year, $27-million contract was on the table throughout most of the late winter and early spring before the Cubs and Wood decided to play out the season and put contract talks on hold during the regular season.
It’s still unclear where this bad season will lead as far as Wood’s contract status of the future. He’s under team control through 2017.
“In my opinion, every year is different,” Wood said. “You can’t live off of what you did last year. Next year will be a fresh year, and we will start from scratch.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.