The Bisheff Blog
Analyzing and commenting on what's hot in sports

The Brandon Wood Mystery

You watch Brandon Wood and his futile at-bats these days, and you have to wonder.

Is the Angels’ young third baseman really this bad? Is this a classic case of a kid who could hit Triple-A pitching but simply couldn’t make the final big hurdle to the big leagues?

The answer to both those questions would seem to be yes at this point, considering he’s hitting .162 with only three extra base hits in 117 at bats. Yet, the suspicion is there’s more to this story. There is something else that has been going on here.

Anyone who read my Angels’ blog a year knows I was a Wood proponent. I thought he was ready after spring training last season, and I certainly felt he deserved an opportunity when Vlad Guerrero went down with an injury for a month in the first half of the year. The club could have moved Chone Figgins to the outfield and inserted Wood at third.

Mike Scioscia obviously didn’t agree, and right now you’d have to say he was right. Except that something happened to Wood after he was sent down yet again in 2009. The disappointment, after hitting close to .300 in spring training and cutting down on his strikeouts, was overwhelming.  Mentally, he hasn’t seemed like the same player since.

When he came back this spring, the spring he was out of options, the spring he finally knew he’d get his opportunity to play regularly, the club apparently decided to tinker with his swing. Scouts thought it was too long, and the theory was you could eliminate some of his strikeouts if you shortened it.

Well, it is shorter now. But the strikeouts have remained (35 in those 117 at-bats). And on the rare occasions when Wood does make contact, he doesn’t drive the ball anymore. He hits soft fly balls or lazy ground ball outs.

When Wood swings now, his right hand goes flying off the bat in his follow though. I don’t remember that happening before.

The result is that the power that made him the organization’s No. 1 prospect is gone. So is any shred of confidence this kid once had. It is almost painful to watch him at the plate now, swinging late on fastballs, lunging at breaking balls far out of the strike zone.

He is less of a prospect today and more of a train wreck, and you have to wonder what happens from here. Scisoscia would like to get him out of the lineup, but with Maicer Izturis on the DL, there is no other viable defensive third baseman.

The suspicion is, when Izturis returns, he’ll take over at third, and Wood will become a full time reserve.

Suddenly, instead of what some thought would be the new Troy Glaus, Wood has morphed into the new Dallas McPherson.

It’s too bad, because this is a kid who seemed to have all the basic tools. He is a solid fielder with a good arm, and back when he was crushing baseballs in the minor leagues, the ball jumped off his bat the way it does with all legitimate home run hitters.

He wouldn’t be the first player who couldn’t clear the one final hurdle between the minors and majors. I’ve seen plenty through the years. A one-time L.A. icon in the old Pacific Coast League named Steve Bilko was a perfect example.

Bilko was the Babe Ruth of the old PCL, but he was never more than a part time first baseman in the major leagues.

You see Brandon Wood suffering now, and you can’t help but think he has become something even less.

It is sad to watch, but that’s the way it goes in baseball. Sometimes reality is as tough to deal with as a 93 mph cut fastball.

— Steve Bisheff


3 Responses to “The Brandon Wood Mystery”

  1. I really like Mike Scioscia. He often works magic with what he has been dealt in the dugout. But one trait I believe is a serious shortcoming. Mike stubbornly fails to reward players who are deserving over those he has locked into a particular position. As Bisheff points out, Brandon earned a prolonged stint at 3rd when Vlady was on the DL for a month last year. Mike seems to be somewhat insensitive to the mental ramifications of not rewarding young men when they clearly deserve it. I only hope that Brandon is not being rewarded too late. We can also wish that the Wood we see struggling at bat is not a Wood forever damaged by a miscalculation of a game that is played out in the head as much as on the field.

  2. Sadly, when one looks at Brandon Wood these days one sees a ball player who is over matched by major league pitching. The best thing that could happen to Wood is a trade and a new hitting coach.

  3. I do disagree with Bisheff on one point, however. Steve Bilko had his time in the majors, hitting 251 with 20 home runs for the Cardinals. With those stats, today he would have a new 5 million dollar contract. At the time that stout Steve was playing, one could make more money in the minors than in the majors. Chuck Connors is a prime example. Although certainly capable of playing in the majors, Chuck made more money with the Angels that he could have with the Cubs.

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