I guess the days of locking your young stars in to long-term contracts are dead. First, Adam Kennedy and Tony Armas Jr. re-signed with their clubs to one-year contracts yesterday, and then today the Cubbies re-sign Kerry Wood to a one-year, $6.1 M contract. Why lock yourself into expensive long-term contracts if these players couldn't make that much money on the rapidly-falling free agent market?
Wood was pretty good last year, 12-11 with a 3.67 ERA. He was ranked 25th among all starters by Baseball Prospectus' Support Neutral Wins Above Replacement (SNWAR). His ERA was 10% better than park-adjusted league average according to Baseball-Reference.com.
His SNWAR wasn't much better than that of other youngsters like Wade Miller, Ramon Ortiz, Matt Clement, and Toma Ohka. Are we even sure that he will ever be as good as his rookie year anyway? Does that matter? Is it enough to earn Steve Austin-type money in today's baseball economy, especially when it only buys the Cubs one year's worth of service (Wood is free-agent eligible after 2004)? Besides the guy has only pitched 200 innings once.
Well, I don't know if his 2001 season was as good as his rookie year, but it was pretty darn good.
What about 2002 though? His ERA, opponents' batting averages, and HRs allowed have gone up while his strikeouts per nine innings and strikeouts-to-walks ratio took a dive (his Walks Plus Hits Per Innings Pitching remains steady though). Does the future look rosy based on 2002? Here are his 2002 stats by month:
Month ERA W L IP AVG WHIP K/9IP K:BB HR/9IP
April 3.54 2 2 28 .219 1.61 9.96 1.29 0.00
May 2.76 4 1 42 .173 0.92 6.38 2.00 0.64
June 6.75 1 2 31 .252 1.53 7.04 1.26 1.17
July 3.00 2 0 33 .223 1.12 8.18 3.00 0.55
August 3.82 0 3 38 .237 1.22 13.14 4.23 1.43
Sept 2.79 3 3 42 .228 1.24 10.07 2.94 1.50
First 1/2 4.12 8 5 107 .208 1.30 7.57 1.43 0.59
2nd 1/2 3.21 4 6 107 .233 1.19 10.72 3.74 1.27
An interesting thing apparently happened during his excellent month of May. His strikeouts dropped even though he was pitching well. He may have been finessing the batters a bit and then it caught up with him in his poor June. His strikeouts starting going up in July and his homers allowed went down, and he looked good the rest of the way (except for a 5-6 record).
Note that his opponents' average went up in the second half but his WHIP went down. What accounts for that? Fewer walks (64 before the All-Star game and 34 after), less finesse. He went after batters more and though some got hits off of him, he was a better pitcher.
Apparently, Wood learned that in the second half and appears poised for a big year in 2003. This time next year we will know if the Cubs' one-year contract strategy worked. If salaries are back up and Wood had a big year, the Cubs may be regretting that strategy.