The Mariano Rivera Effect on the Cubs
The acquisition of Kerry Wood was seen as an under-the-radar hometown discount for the Cubs, as he signed for a below-market value for the team that drafted him fourth overall in the 1995 amateur draft. Wood’s value may prove to be more important beyond a simple dollars and cents mindset, as he is showing he is translating his experiences with the best closer ever towards mentoring younger Cub pitchers in a big way.
Kerry Wood was acquired by the New York Yankees at the trade deadline of the 2010 season, a buy-low move for the Yankees in need of bullpen help. After the move, Wood put up a solid season on the surface (0.69 ERA), but struggled with his command (6.23 BB/9). He showed he was utterly dominant at times, limiting batters to a .157 batting average, and sporting a 10.73 K/9 ratio.
Looking at Wood’s pitch-type values, there is evidence that he sustain his successes as a Cub. After the trade to the Yankees, Wood dropped his fastball usage to a career low 53% (64% career average). He started throwing a lot more cutters (a 10% increase) in place of his fastball. Following his application of the pitch, his effectiveness of the cutter also rose, becoming his most effective pitch in his arsenal.
It’s easy to speculate that legendary Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera has at least some influence in his improvement of Wood’s cutter, Rivera’s bread and butter pitch. Anyone can guess, but it’s too difficult to mark this up as sheer coincidence.
As Rivera may have taught a thing or two about his cutter, it appears as if Wood may also have some things to teach about the pitch to some of the Cub pitchers. Jon Heyman speculated that he could provide some guidance with the pitch in the future (toss-up to Captain Obvious for the assist), but it appears as if the future is now.
Carrie Muskat reported that Andrew Cashner has been working on a cutter this spring. Could Wood be a driving factor in Cashner’s usage of the pitch? One can only wonder, but again, it can’t be chalked up to pure coincidence. It could be a reason as to why Cashner has struggled with is control in the spring.