Alex Wood is tired: What Does That Mean for the Dodgers

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) /

The unorthodox usage of Alex Wood over the last two years may have repercussions during the pennant chase for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The left-handed starter with a .929 winning percentage and 2.33 ERA is a bona fide Cy Young candidate for the club this year.

With 13 wins and only one loss, Alex Wood carries 112 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings into the stretch run as the Dodgers look to shore up home field advantage for the Playoffs.

And while Wood provided consistent near-brilliance for the team prior to the All-Star break, his recent starts have shown cause for concern. Wood struck out 68 batters in 54 innings during his tremendous May and June run (Wood was named National League Pitcher of the Month in June).

However, his propensity to cause batters to swing and miss has waned. In July and August, Wood has 25 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings. More alarmingly, he allowed 12 earned runs in that time frame, compared to 15 during the entirety of the season’s first three months, spanning 73 2/3 innings.

It seems that based on diminished radar gun readings on his fastball, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts feels similarly.

From Andy McCullough’s piece in today’s L.A. Times, he planned to meet with Wood to discuss his “fatigue,” though he did not sound alarmed.

"“I don’t think it’s a health thing,” Roberts said. “It’s just to try to stay ahead of things, just to make sure he has the strength to be ready for the rest of the regular season.”"

Per McCullough, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt would also be in on the meeting. It is important to note that there is no indication of an actual injury. Wood did pitch well enough to earn a victory against the Atlanta Braves last night, he only struck out two batters in six innings while allowing seven hits.

Wood now has a total of 104 1/3 innings pitched in 2017, which is nearly double his 2016 total of 60 1/3. Though Wood did throw a total of 189 2/3 innings in 2015, it is possible that Wood’s arm may not have the long-term stamina built that necessitates a deep playoff run.

Potential strategies include a six-man rotation once Clayton Kershaw returns, or more creative machinations with the disabled list.

Innings limits and pitch counts have not been directly shown to minimize injury nor benefit pitchers, but the analytics-oriented front office clearly believes in building arms slowly and deliberately, as evidenced by the plan they had to build Julio Urias. Urias had season-ending surgery in June, however, and the Dodgers may have to re-philosophize on that in the offseason.

Hopefully it is an offseason of celebration – both of a World Series, and Alex Wood’s continued success.

How Roberts, Honeycutt and the front office ensure the latter, however, will be paramount in ensuring the former.