It looks like the Chicago Cubs have a pretty serious Pedro Strop problem

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

Don’t look now, but the Chicago Cubs might have a serious Pedro Strop problem on their hands.

One game does not a season make. But several games? Well, that’s a different story. Pedro Strop – the longest-tenured member of the Chicago Cubs bullpen and by most measures, one of the most successful relievers in team history – hasn’t been anywhere near the guy we’ve seen to this point.

Let me be clear – I’m not just talking about coughing up a go-ahead, game-winning blast to former Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez on Tuesday night. Strop simply hasn’t been reliable and with Brandon Morrow sidelined for who knows how long, it’s been a major issue for Joe Maddon this year.

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On the heels of Tuesday’s loss, Strop carries a 5.52 ERA and equally unsavory 5.08 FIP across 18 appearances. That’s a far cry from his career 2.76 ERA in a Cubs uniform – and you can largely chalk it up to two big issues: the long ball and walks.

His home run rate has tripled year-over-year – with Jimenez’s blast just the latest example. Last year, in 59 2/3 innings of work, Strop allowed just four home runs. This year, in just 14 2/3 frames – let’s call it one-quarter the body of work of last season – he’s already allowed three – putting him on pace to obliterate his previous career-worst mark of five.

As far as walks, Strop is allowing free passes at a rate he hasn’t seen since 2012 – when he was still teammates with Jake Arrieta on the Baltimore Orioles.

Those two things obviously jump out when you look at what’s gone wrong for the 34-year-old this season. Given the fact he’s in his last year of team control, he may very well be working his way out of the team’s good graces long-term if his struggles continue. But it’s too early to write him off – but definitely time to dig in and see what’s changed for Strop.

For years, Strop has relied almost exclusively on his fastball/slider combination. When he can hit his spots with both pitches, he’s near-unhittable. But this year, he’s down a full MPH on his fastball from 2018 (95.4 to 94.4 MPH) – and down dramatically from 2017, when he averaged 96.1 MPH on his heater. Both his medium and hard-hit rates have sharply increased, as well.

According to Fangraphs, his swinging strike rate is down – due largely to the fact that hitters aren’t swinging at pitches outside the zone, which is where he’s made his living – getting guys to hack at sliders off the plate.

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With his velocity down and fewer guys chasing his breaking stuff, Strop will have to quickly figure things out. In his mid-30s, we could be looking at a new reality for the right-hander. But with the Cubs in a heated battle for the National League Central and eyes set on October, everyone at Clark and Addison are hoping this is a mere blemish on the resume of their longtime fireman.