Oct 3, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Alex Wood (58) throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning of game one of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Expectations for Alex Wood


Oct 3, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Alex Wood (58) throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning of game one of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

In case you didn’t know, I really love Alex Wood. I was so ecstatic when we drafted him that I watched every one of his starts while he was at Rome. When he pitched in Mississippi at the start of 2013, I constantly kept up with his performance. After his call-up to Atlanta, which I was not a fan of originally, I continued to watch, and overly analyzed every aspect of his game that I could. I, somewhat foolishly, but humorously, called him our version of Matt Harvey. While I don’t truly believe that Wood is that good, I do believe in him enough where I think he could become an ace for us in the very near future; he is an untouchable for trade purposes in my opinion.

This great article, written by Landon Jones, details many parts of Alex’s game that I have been believing for myself. The data here is amazing. Wood’s changeup was a great pitch for him last year; it’s his best pitch, but his changeup also ranked among one of the top in the game.  And while his fastball velocity dropped when he became a starter, it was still above average, and is a great ground ball pitch.

Wood’s changeup ranked eighth among changeups for horizontal movement. He doesn’t get as much sink on the offering as many of his peers, but he’s still able to generate a top-25 rank in whiffs per swing and a top-50 rank in groundball percentage (Landon Jones)

I’ve said this before, but let me do so again; I believe that Alex Wood can, and will, be the Braves most valuable starter in 2013. Julio Teheran and Mike Minor, even Kris Medlen, are all great. However, I believe that the dynamics Alex Wood brings to the table put him a cut above those 3. Certainly his unorthodox delivery is reason for mild concern, but so far, this motion has worked for him. I’m no mechanics expert, but I think that his drawn out delivery helps add a layer of deception, allowing his pitches to better weaken the batter. His innings count is also mildly concerning (he threw ~ 135 in 2013), but after throwing nearly 155 in 2012, and watching Kris Medlen increase his workload by 60 innings last year with no ill effects, I’m not terribly worried about Wood’s stamina.

Alex Wood is NOT a LOOGY (left-handed, one out guy). While his numbers are certainly better against lefthand batters (29% K rate, 1.61 FIP vs 21% K rate and 3.10 FIP), both numbers are tremendously solid. His babip and batted ball data also lend to the belief that his stats are no fluke; in fact, he should get better against left-handers, as he currently allows a 31% line drive rate and has a .371 babip when facing lefties. While his LOB% vs LHB is high, the regression from this can likely be counteracted by his improvement vs RHB as he grows as a pitcher.

It remains to be seen as of now, but there is much reason to be hopeful in a successful 2014 season from Alex Wood, and in turn, our entire rotation. Hopefully we won’t need Gavin Floyd to replace him at any point. Steamer and ZiPS projections are optimistic on Wood for 2014, with Oliver predicting a less successful, but still valuable, season from Alex.

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I’m even higher on Alex than these predictions; I feel that the ZiPS projection is closer what I expect Wood’s peripherals to be, while Steamer has a more appropriate innings count. Oliver, with the lowest BB%, is also another projection I expect to hold true. While Wood did struggle with his control at times, as a 2nd year player, that will hopefully have learned to control his curveball (he threw 50% of his curveballs for balls in 2013), his walk rate should drop considerably. It’s a pretty unhittable pitch right now, and once he fine-tunes his control on this out-pitch, I expect his K% to rise, and his BB% to drop considerably.

My unofficial prediction, as of today, for Alex Wood:

28 starts, 174 IP, 24.5% K, 7% BB, 0.55 HR/9, 3.30 ERA, 3.40 FIP, ~ 3-3.5 fWAR.

Feel free to vote in the poll, and comment below.

 

What results do you expect from Alex Wood as a starter? (120-150+ innings)

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  • Sealift67

    Agree. Folks tend to forget he was a rookie and in that regard showed poise.
    No question he fatigued by late season and needs to be used correctly ie
    5th starter, keep the pressure down, let him season up, has a fine future.
    As an aside I recall Glavine, Smotlz,, Avery in the their debut…numbers were not
    good yet scouts could see what was coming down the road.

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ Julien Benjamin

    I’m just feeling a “break-out” type season from Wood…. 2013 was just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Brandon_Woodworth

    Haha good stuff. Landon is a friend of mine, we’re from the same town, and I know how much he loves Alex Wood.

  • fireboss

    Minor league and college innings aren’t as hard as major league innings that’s why he tired with fewer innings. His motion offers some deception and his recoil is unique but other than the landing he resembles Ubaldo Jiminez from the left side though he flies at you harder. The from the left side part gives him another edge. I like Wood but I’m nowhere near as high in him as Julien and Landon particularly when he’s already one TJ surgery down. As a starter I don’t see him top of any rotation that wins championships, he’s more a middle of the rotation guy who will have good years and tease but never quite get there. His fastball is only elite out of the pen, as a starter it’s major just good. That’s not an insult just a realistic look at how a starter throws and how a one inning reliever throws. His is breaking ball has always been weak, with an elite fastball and his change he’s fine, with just a good fastball he’ll get exposed on days his change isn’t good. The other thing that worries me about his motion is that the number of
    starters with long term success that have a ‘funky” motion is small.
    It’s just too hard to repeat particularly when you get tired or a little hurt. Even Lincecum had to calm his motion down and his stuff is much better. I know the Braves hope he’ll get 170 innings but I’m not sure.

    • rick staley

      Fred’s spot on with the fact his breaking ball had better improve because all MLB pitchers get lit up when all they have is a good SP fastball. I do think he will improve his breaking pitch, but I would much rather see him learn to throw a split FB and/or a cutter he could run in on those RH boppers leaning over the inside corner when sitting dead-red. 10-12 W’S and a 1.15 WHIP would be awesome in ’14 for the young southpaw…imho.

  • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

    Not saying I agree with this thought, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised, come May at least, to see Floyd in the rotation in place of Wood if Wood doesn’t come out of the gate w/ great command. The quotes from Wren on how much they seem to like Floyd (harumph) indicate a desire to use him. We shall see. Keep in mind that Wren has made some indications that Wood’s innings could be limited anyway.