Big news out of Chicago, as Cubs reliever Kerry Wood will be retiring today. Wood hasn’t been healthy all season, and it appears that the 34 year-old just can’t take it anymore.
Wood first gained acclaim with the Cubs as a starting pitcher, striking out a record 20 hitters in a start in his 1998 rookie year. That game is generally regarded as the best pitched game of all-time, as he allowed just one hit and hit a batter in the complete game shutout against the Astros. The game on May 6th, 1998 was just his sixth career start, and Wood was only 20 years-old. He’d go on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1998.
Wood missed all of 1999, but was relatively healthy as a starter over the next five years with the Cubs. He struck out a batter per inning during that span, and was a ridiculously hard thrower. Wood only made ten starts (in 21 games) in 2005, and just four starts in 2006. When he returned for 22 games in 2007, it was as a reliever. He was the Cubs closer in 2008, and saved 34 games while striking out 84 in 66 1/3 innings. He signed as a free agent with the Indians after 2008, and saved 20 games for the Tribe. He was dealt to the Yankees in the middle of 2010, and served as a set-up man for Mariano Rivera. He returned to the Cubs for 2011 and served as a set-up man for Carlos Marmol.
This season, Wood had thrown just 8 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking 11. He had an 8.64 ERA, and had dealt with injuries. For his career, Wood struck out 10.31 batters per nine innings, the second highest rate of all-time, behind just Randy Johnson. He’s pretty good. Wood made just over $70 million during his career, and accrued 23.4 fWAR.
Wood had himself a great career, and is a cautionary tale of what can happen when you overwork a young arm. It really makes you wonder what could have happened if Wood had never gotten hurt in 1999.
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