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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