Chicago Cubs: Pedro Strop needs a new role in the bullpen

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

Last night, the usually reliable Pedro Strop was unable to secure another lead for the Chicago Cubs. He allowed three runs to score as the San Francisco Giants came back to win, 5-4.

What in the whole wide world of sports has happened to Pedro Strop? For years he has been one of the most reliable bullpen arms in all of baseball. Along the way, he un-arguably became one of the Chicago Cubs greatest relievers of all-time.

This season, however, has been a different story as Strop has struggled mightily. He’s having his worst season as a Cub by far, pitching to the tune of a 5.47 ERA while posting a 4.63 FIP. Both of those marks are career-lows for Strop.

The right-handed reliever is also getting hit harder and more often than ever before. On the year he’s already served up five long balls, which ties his career-high. Strop’s hits-per-nine have also skyrocketed up to 7.5 which is his highest mark since he entered the league back in 2009.

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While Strop has struggled this season, his performance of late has been even more worrisome. In July, he’s had an inability to hold the lead, blowing three saves. In those three, he’s allowed seven earned runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings.

Now, I don’t want to completely throw Strop under the bus because he has been a considerable part of the Cubs recent success. But he is not right, and he is costing the Cubs games.

For that reason, it’s time for the Cubs to make a change. I’m not talking about something dramatic like getting rid of Strop or cutting ties with him. Something simple like a role change would more than suffice.

For the time being, Strop should not be pitching in high-leverage situations or in the eighth inning. For now, he should be relegated to lower leverage situations where the game isn’t on the line, mostly in the sixth and seventh innings.

The Cubs have other arms in the bullpen they can turn to

In the meantime, the Cubs have other options to fill in or potentially take over as the setup man. Brandon Kintzler has been lights out in the eighth inning this season. He’s pitched 13 2/3 innings in that role and has just a 1.32 ERA, allowing only two earned runs.

He’s been a pleasant surprise to the Cubs bullpen this year after a pedestrian first season with the club in 2018. He also has closer experience and has worked in plenty of high-leverage situations throughout his career.

Another reliever capable of pitching in the eighth inning is Steve Cishek. Cishek has pitched in a number of roles out of the Cubs bullpen the last two seasons and has served as a primary setup man before.

He has really found his groove here in July and is having an outstanding month. Cishek has appeared in 10 games in July and has posted an ERA of 1.00. He hasn’t dominated opposing hitters by any means as he’s struck out just three, but he’s kept them in check.

I believe either Kintzler or Cishek or a combination of the two could get the job done in the eighth inning. That could help bridge the gap and get the game to Craig Kimbrel, still with a lead.

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With them taking over the setup man role, that could allow Strop to get himself right. Strop needs to continue pitching to get his confidence up and work through whatever kinks he’s got going on. If he’s hurt, the Cubs should give him time to get well on the injured list and call someone up to take his place. I know I wouldn’t give up on him based on how much he means to this Cubs team and when he’s on his game he’s one of the best relievers in the game.