Kerry Wood, pitcher, Chicago Cubs, throws R, born 6-16-1977.

Kerry Wood has drawn comparisons to Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens for obvious reasons. They're all Texans, they all have tremendous fastballs, and they are (or were, in Ryan's case) all amazing strikeout pitchers. Wood, along with Clemens and Randy Johnson, holds the record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning start with twenty. He achieved this on May 6, 1998, against the Houston Astros. In that game, he allowed one infield hit, hit one batter, and did not walk anyone. It was the most dominant pitching performance of the modern era as measured by Game Score. Unfortunately, I did not see the game, so I can't reasonably compare Wood's outing to Clemens' two twenty-K performances or Johnson's twenty-K game.

Wood's success as a rookie in 1998 was due to his fastball and slider, with a good curveball mixed in as well, and his dominance extended beyond his record-setting game--he won the Rookie of the Year award. Unfortunately, he injured his elbow over the course of the season (and the Cubs' drive for a playoff spot) and spent 1999 recovering from Tommy John surgery. In his return in 2000, he was encouraged to develop a changeup and a sinking fastball to reduce his reliance on his slider and avoid placing additional stress on his reconstructed elbow. The 2000 season was not an exceptional one for him, as he struggled frequently with his control and posted a mediocre 4.80 ERA.

Based on Wood's pitching this season, it appears he has made a full recovery from surgery. He posted the lowest ERA of his young career, a 3.36, and struck out over a batter an inning. His control still needs to improve before he will become a truly dominant pitcher. The Cubs allowed him to throw close to 110 pitches per game fairly consistently this year, and despite that, he averaged only 6 1/3 innings per start. Nonetheless, Wood is the Cubs' most promising young player, and watching him pitch is always exciting. I recommend that any baseball fans who have the opportunity watch Wood when you get a chance. He has the talent necessary to be one of the greatest pitchers of our generation.

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