Braves starter Alex Wood hasn’t been sharp so far this season, walking 6 batters in 11 innings, while registering a 3.86 ERA. He struggled Sunday against the Mets, giving up 8 hits and 3 walks in 6.2 innings.
Wood was able to limit the Mets to 3 runs, he hasn’t lost his ability to battle when in trouble. If he keeps struggling to throw strikes, though, he’s going to be battling a lot this season.
But what really concerns about Wood is his drop in velocity. According to FanGraphs.com, when he came up to the Braves in 2013, Wood’s velocity with his 4-seam fastball was 91.7 mph. Last season he threw the same pitch at 89.8 and this season he is down to 89.4. I watched the radar gun closely at yesterday’s game, he only touched 90 once. Although admittedly I did get distracted and missed some pitches.
When Wood came up to the Braves in ’13, he was throwing his 2-seam fastball at 93.8, he hasn’t used his 2-seamer since according to FanGraphs, so we can’t compare that velocity to now. But why isn’t Wood using the 2-seamer, if for no other reason to use it as a waste pitch and keep batters off the plate?
Whenever a pitcher starts dropping in velocity, it can be a red flag of concern. Wood is only 24 years old, if anything his velocity should be improving, not declining. Granted, Wood has made himself into more of a pitcher than a power guy, but still, he’s not topping out at all.
There aren’t a lot of pitchers around nowadays who consistently throw their fastball below 90 mph. To put things in perspective, Aaron Harang was regularly throwing 91/92 last season and he’s considered a guy who is approaching the end of his career and not a hard thrower anymore.
Another concern is how sound is Wood’s arm? When pitchers start dropping in velocity it can mean the wear and tear of throwing all the pitches is heading towards injury. Lets hope that is not the case with Alex Wood and his loss of speed is something mechanical that can be fixed.
With the announcement that Mike Minor is still struggling with arm problems and will be out longer than expected with no timetable, the Braves cannot afford to lose Alex Wood.