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Game Changer: How a Three-Page Analysis Revitalized Alex Wood's Career

A three-page analysis from Andrew Friedman, then GM of the Dodgers, led to a significant improvement in pitcher Alex Wood's strikeout rate and contributed to the team's World Series run.

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Salman Khan
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Game Changer: How a Three-Page Analysis Revitalized Alex Wood's Career

In 2016, a pivotal moment in the career of Alex Wood, the left-handed pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, unfolded behind the closed doors of the team's management office. Andrew Friedman, the then-general manager, handed him a three-page analysis, a comprehensive study of Wood's pitching patterns. It was a revelation that would soon catapult Wood's career to new heights.

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Reinventing the Game: A Change in Strategy

The report pointed out a pattern - Wood had a knack for getting batters into two-strike counts but struggled to leverage this advantage. He was falling short in finishing batters off. The solution proposed was simple yet transformative - use offspeed pitches more effectively when ahead in the count. This advice marked a significant shift in Wood's approach, moving him away from the prevailing mentality of 'wasting' a pitch. Instead, he was advised to use his curve and changeup to strike batters out.

From Advice to Action: The Remarkable Turnaround

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The change was not only adopted but also embraced by Wood. The results were immediate and impressive. Despite being restricted to 14 games in 2016 due to an unfortunate elbow injury, he improved his strikeout rate to 9.8 per nine innings, a considerable jump from 6.6 in 2015. 2017 proved to be a milestone year in Wood's career. He posted a 16-3 record with a commendable 2.72 ERA, maintaining a high strikeout rate, which played a key role in propelling the Dodgers to the World Series.

An Unseen Impact: Improved Strikeout Ability

The impact of Friedman's advice was most visible in 0-2 and 1-2 counts. In 2015, Wood could only strike out 39% of batters in 0-2 counts and 37.4% in 1-2 counts. However, after implementing the suggested change, the numbers jumped to over 50% in both counts in the following seasons. Alex Wood credits this dramatic change for much of his success on the mound.

Furthermore, the Dodgers' track record of revitalizing and optimizing the careers of their pitchers extends beyond Wood's case. For instance, Noah Syndergaard, who is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers for the 2023 season. The organization's reputation for helping pitchers rebound played a significant role in his decision, further solidifying the Dodgers' standing in the world of baseball.

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