On the surface, you might wonder why the Chicago Cubs chose to extend Pedro Strop over saving that money for a possible free agent or trade deadline move. But few have been as dominant as Strop since he arrived in Chicago three years ago.
If you were to only get your sports and political news from the internet–some do—you’d be sure that the Chicago Cubs‘ Pedro Strop isn’t that good. Anytime he has a bad outing you’ll undoubtedly see the comment “put your hat on straight” with some inappropriate comment to go with it. FYI, I wear my hat to the left and I can assure you it has nothing to do with my color, a gang or any other of the nonsense that people will associate with not wearing a hat straight. The thing is, that is a rare occasion for Strop. He’s been really, really good for the Cubs.
If not for the meniscus tear in August, Strop’s role in the postseason might have been even bigger. But the Cubs and Joe Maddon backed off of Strop, going more often with Aroldis Chapman. A move that has been questioned and criticized more times than I can count. In the end, it all worked out. After this season, the Cubs bullpen will have several free agents, but Strop isn’t going to be one of them
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Looking at Strop’s numbers, I realize that some of the comments I’ve seen in the past were just–silly. While he’s had a rough stretch in each of his three seasons in Chicago, he’s still posted a sub-3.00 ERA each year. That’s not always an easy task as a reliever. And if you’ve heard the expression “familiarity breeds contempt”, it’s even more impressive. Because Strop has gotten BETTER when looking at his peripherals.
Early season woes
For his career, May has been a tough month in Chicago for Strop. He’s posted an 11.57 ERA in 2014 and a 6.59 ERA in 2015. Last season it was an injury shortened August that hurt him with a 7.71 ERA in just 2 1/3 IP. But aside from those “hiccups”, he’s been near unstoppable the rest of time.
One of the most notable things is his pitch selection. He used his fastball 42.2% of the time, the lowest of his career. He threw his slider almost an identical rate to 2015 (49.2 in ’15 to 49.9 in ’16). It was his splitter that became one of his best weapons in 2016. It was a pitch that Strop threw more often early in his career. But since arriving in Chicago it had been rarely seen.
In 2016 he went to it almost eight percent of the time. Previously, the most he had thrown it was 1.4% in 2014. Last season, Strop threw his splitter 44 times, allowing no hits while striking out five. At times, when he relied on his slider too often, you would see him miss location. This, of course, has led to the long ball. Bring the splitter back into the repertoire has clearly made a difference.
While the Cubs acquired Wade Davis to close out games, Strop and Hector Rondon are still a big part of this bullpen. Both were slowed by injuries last season. But if both are 100% in 2017, the Cubs bullpen from the sixth inning on is going to be tough for any team to beat.