Alex Wood Is Officially a Marquee Starting Pitcher

The veteran hurler is one of the reasons the Los Angeles Dodgers have the scariest batch of lefties in MLB.

Raise your hand if, coming into the 2017 season, you thought Alex Wood was going to be the best left-handed pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation.

Anybody? Anybody? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Much to the surprise of everybody, Wood has outperformed teammates Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, two of the best lefty starters in the game. He's 10-0 this season with a 1.67 ERA and a fielding independent pitching of 2.04, both of which are career bests. His 3.1 fWAR is tied for sixth in baseball, and although he doesn't have enough innings to qualify for the ERA leaderboard just yet, his ERA is the lowest in the league among hurlers with at least 80 innings pitched.

Wood is the first pitcher in Dodgers history to win his first 10 decisions to start the year since Don Newcombe in 1955. In his last outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he struck out 10 batters in 7 innings of work, with 3 hits, 2 walks and 0 earned runs allowed. Left-handed hitters are batting .194/.250/.237 against him, and right-handers are doing even worse, with a triple slash of .164/.239/.232.

His 10-0 start has led to some interesting factoids.

If you think it's an exaggeration to say he's out-pitched the best hurler in the game, check his numbers as compared to Kershaw's.

Clayton Kershaw 123.1 2.19 3.11 30.9 4.7 .195 3.2
Alex Wood 80.2 1.67 2.04 30.9 7.0 .174 3.1

Wood has always been a serviceable left-handed arm, a guy you want in the middle to back-end of your rotation, but since returning from having bone chips removed from his elbow last season when he made only 10 starts and had a 3.73 ERA for L.A., he's been especially dominant. Just look at his stuff.

His fastball has averaged 92.5 mph this year, 3.4 mph more than in his last full season, 2015, when he was with the Atlanta Braves and the Dodgers. That's a massive increase, and he's now coupling it with an 85 mph changeup that he's throwing 23.7% of the time, way up from his career 18.4% mark.

Hitters are swinging at 36.5% of his pitches that are out of the strike zone, up from 27.4% a year ago. Meanwhile, his overall contact rate has dropped from 87.9% in 2016 to 82.3%, and his swinging strike numbers have jumped from 9.6% to 13.5%.

In addition to the strikeouts, Wood has been a ground ball machine, with a 63.5% ground ball rate that ranks third-highest among MLB starters with 80 innings under their belt. Only the San Diego Padres' Luis Perdomo and the Houston Astros' Lance McCullers have a better rate.

It's almost as if having the bone chips removed has made him a completely different pitcher. Either that or he's a mutant who has absorbed some of Kershaw's Kershaw-ness by osmosis.

Whatever the reason, Wood has emerged to form an unholy trio of left-handed arms in the Los Angeles rotation that are as fearsome as anything you'll see from a National League staff.