Weight: 211 Lbs
Former closer Todd Jones put an Idea in my head in his latest article in The Sporting News. When asked about a few free agents, Kerry Wood’s name came up. He said that he thought Wood was a good candidate to take over his former title in Detroit, because “Jim Leyland knows how to protect relievers.” I thought, well well Mr. Jones, your career as a journalist might be heading somewhere.
Though Wood seems to be asking for a longer term deal than the Tigers want to explore, It seems like a good fit. If the market is as quiet for Wood as advertised, then the Tigers could land him for eight million a season. That could be a respectable amount on both sides, considering Todd Jones was made the tenth highest paid reliever in 2008 with a one year seven million dollar deal. Wood was rumored to have done anything to stay with the Cubs. The Chicago Tribune stated that he was even willing to sign a one year deal. Would he be willing to with another club? Probably not. But he could really help out this bullpen. For the right price, I think the Tigers should explore this option. So how successful was Kerry Wood in his first full season as a closer? Lets take a closer look:
Despite starting spring training as the underdog to win out the Closing gig, Wood put together a solid spring without injury and won the job outright over flame throwin’ Carlos Marmol. Former closer Ryan Dempster was converted to starter, becoming one of the top hurlers in the National League. Carlos Marmol was arguably the best setup relievers in the Game. And Kerry Wood had great success in the ninth inning.
Wood pitched 66 innings in 2008, only hitting the disabled list once in middle July, which was a feat in itself. Cubs manager Lou Pinella used Wood in back to back games 19 times, showing that he wasn’t worried about burning out or injuring his closer. In his first year closing games, Wood did struggle a bit with control. Of his sixty-five appearances, eleven of them went twenty five pitches or more. With the lack of control though, came a pretty good turnover ratio. Of those 65 appearances, Wood got out of 50 of them clean, meaning that he did not allow a run. Wood faced 276 batters and only allowed 24 earned runs and 3 homers. He saved 34 out of 40 games successfully.
When doing research on Wood’s 2008 campaign, a few things stuck out at me. Wood inherited twelve runners and only two scored. Wood never entered a game with the winning or tying run on base. His ability to literally “shut the door.” wasn’t tested. This doesn’t shock me as much as maybe it would a few years ago. The closer role has evolved to being the pitcher who only comes in to start the ninth inning. With a shutdown reliever like Carlos Marmol availble as well, it makes sense. But I would like to see Wood in more tested situations. Another thing that stuck out to me was his K/BB ratio. He struck out 84, while only walking 18. Not a bad ratio for a guy who once led the league in hit batsmen in 2002 and 2003. Finally, his SV/HLD percentage is one of the best in the game. At .85%, Wood ranks just below top echelon of closers. Here is a breakdown of the leaders:
SV/HLD Percantage Leaders
1. Joakim Soria 93%
2. Fransisco Rodriguez 90%
3. Brian Fuentes 90%
4. Jonathon Papelbon 89%
5. Bobby Jenks 88%
6. Joe Nathan 87%
7. Jose Valverde 86%
8. Kerry Wood 85%
9. Fransisco Cordero 85%
10. George Sherill 84%
(This list only contains closers.)
As much as I don’t believe that Kerry Wood can continue to be a dominant closer is this league, I think he could be the answer the Tigers are looking for. He has some of the best stuff in the game. ESPN’s Keith Law ranks him as the best reliever in the Free Agent Market, even with his injury past. I feel that if the Tigers could get him for two or three years, they should pull the trigger. Unless their agenda doesn’t include winning ballgames right away. Wood is ‘affordable’ and should be able to hold his own until youngsters Ryan Perry and Codey Sabberwaite are ready for the majors.
2009 Projected Numbers: 5-3 3.51 ERA 33 SV 74 SO/28 BB
Not as good as hoped for, but they are sufficient. I would still love to see Mr. Kerry Wood make the switch from the C on the cap, to the good ol’ D.