With Joba Chamberlain on the shelf for the next 10-14 months, one candidate that has popped up prominently for some much needed bullpen help is a familiar face from last season, one Mr. Kerry Lee Wood. On the surface, it seems to make sense. The Cubs are obviously going nowhere this year, already 12 games out in the hotly contested NL Central. Even a rough patch by the Cards wouldn’t help them out much with the Brewers, Reds and (yes) Pirates ahead of them in baseball’s only 6 team division. It’s going to be another long summer in Chicago, and the lovable losers from the north side figure to be sellers at the trade deadline.
There has already been some buzz of interest on the part of the Yanks. I have no doubt that some elements of the Yankee brass will look at how well Wood performed in pinstripes last year and think he has ‘what it takes to pitch in New York’ whatever the heck that means. But looking deeper at the numbers, it appears 2010 Kerry Wood the Yankee is a classic case of luck in small samples.
The first thing that jumps out at you is the 0.69 ERA, almost a full 3 runs lower than his career mark of 3.63. His rate stats as a Yankee (1.231 WHIP/10.7 SO/9) were remarkably similar to that of his career numbers (1.262 WHIP/10.3 SO/9) so it doesn’t appear he reinvented himself as a pitcher in any way. If anything, his walks were up last year as a Yankee (6.2/9) from his career average (4.3/9). A likely explanation for his success was his ridiculously low .236 BABIP as a Yankee, far below his career mark of .282 and the MLB average last year of .298. xFIP bears this out, he had a 4.40 mark last year with a 3.31 ERA overall. For his career, his xFIP and ERA are much closer, so he’s not one of these guys who outperforms it annually like Mo does. To be fair, Wood’s ERA (2.25) this year has outperformed his xFIP (4.40) as well, but Wrigley Field has long had a reputation for helping pitchers in the cold, early months of the year and becoming a launching pad come summertime. Unless he added a pitch as a Yankee or changed something else about his delivery, there’s no reason whatsoever to believe his performance in pinstripes last year is likely to be repeated in any way.
Maybe the best argument for reacquiring Wood is how little he makes. He signed a very team friendly 1 year/1.5 mil deal with incentives to return to his baseball home in Chicago. But that affects his trade availability in two ways. First, you’ll have to give up more for him in talent since he’s earning so little in dollars. Next, he has a blanket no-trade clause which Jayson Stark reports he is unlikely to waive. The whole point of signing such a team friendly deal from his perspective was to spend the season in Chicago, where his wife is from. Unless he’s unhappy pitching for a non contender (something he had to expect by signing there in the first place) he’d have every right to demand a contract extension or to guarantee his incentives from this year’s deal.
You can sell me it’s better to be lucky than good, but its also smart to leave the blackjack table with some winnings in your pocket. If were talking about another C-level prospect plus filler to make the deal, I suppose you could take a flyer on the veteran pitcher. But if he costs anything of value, I’ll pass.
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