Chicago Cubs: Pedro Strop excelling in new ninth inning role

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Over the past half decade, Pedro Strop has emerged as one of the most reliable relievers in the league. Now, he’s flourishing as the Chicago Cubs closer.

During his five years spent with the Chicago Cubs, Pedro Strop has been the team’s unfailingly dependent eighth-inning setup man. Recently, though, he’s taken on a new role as the interim closer with Brandon Morrow on the disabled list. Strop has adapted quite well and has been lights-out in the ninth.

In the offseason the Chicago Cubs signed Morrow to be the team’s closer after Wade Davis walked in free agency. Morrow didn’t have much experience closing games in his career but he adjusted well and already saved a career-high 22 games for the Cubs.

Despite his success, Morrow has had problems staying healthy and has ended up on the disabled list twice this season. Most recently, the right-hander headed to the disabled list on July 19 due to right biceps inflammation. At the time, Joe Maddon indicated it would be a closer-by-committee and the Cubs would not rely on one individual to close out games.

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That hardly seems to be the case as Pedro Strop has gotten all the chances to close out games for the Cubs in Morrow’s absence. Strop has had seven opportunities to earn a save for the Cubs and he’s converted on all of them. On the year, Strop has earned nine saves – doubling his career total in a few short weeks.

In those seven saves, Strop has given up just three hits, two runs and one walk while striking out six. He gave the Cubs their only scare when the San Diego Padres mounted a comeback down three in the ninth. He surrendered two runs before striking out the final batter and stranding the tying run at first base.

A reliable arm out of the bullpen

Looking at his whole body of work this year, Strop is enjoying one of his better seasons with the Cubs. His 2.68 ERA is the lowest it’s been since his first year in Chicago when he posted a 2.21 ERA. His strikeout rate isn’t as high as its been in the past but Strop has lowered both his walks per nine and home runs per nine to 3.26 and 0.57, respectively. Those are the lowest rates he’s had since he posted a 2.85 BB/9 in 2016 and a 0.30 HR/9 in 2014.

Strop has also enjoyed a healthy season. The same can’t be said about the rest of the Cubs bullpen. Carl Edwards, Brian Duensing and Morrow, to name a few have all spent considerable time on the disabled list. Due to the constant injuries the Cubs had to bring in fresh arms like Jesse Chavez and Brandon Kintzler. Throughout all that, one constant this season, and in prior seasons has been Strop.

With two more appearances this season, Strop will have made 50 or more appearances for the Cubs every year he’s been here. In that time he’s posted a career 2.70 ERA while striking out 324 batters. Pretty good for the “other guy” who came over in what will likely always be known as the Jake Arrieta trade.

Morrow’s return is inevitable and I’m sure he will take over the closer role and Strop will move back to the setup man. With that said, he has definitely proved he is capable of closing game out and performing under pressure.

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Whatever does happen, one thing is for sure. Whether he wears his hat straight or to the side or is the closer or the setup man, Strop is the backbone of the Cubs bullpen.