It’s far too early to make any sort of even remotely justifiable assessment of a player – and that includes prize-of-the-offseason for the Cubs, Marcus Stroman. After a sharp Wrigley Field debut in his first start, he’s turned in back-to-back clunkers, surrendering a combined 12 earned on 14 hits in just 8 1/3 innings of work.
As Cubs fans always do, everyone seems to be handling things well – no drastic overreactions or anything of the sort (I am, of course, kidding – I’ve seen enough people comparing the Stroman signing to Jason Heyward’s contract of late to last me an entire lifetime).
So what’s gone wrong for Stroman so far? There are a few things that jump out when you look at the numbers.
He’s not had any sort of consistent feel for his sinker – and said as much after his latest outing against the Rays this week.
"“Every pitch essentially feels like I’m doing something different mechanically,” Stroman said. “It kind of comes and goes in stretches. I feel great for an inning or a few batters and then I kind of just lose it. It’s frustrating. It’s beyond frustrating.”"
Opponents are hitting .333 against Stroman’s sinker – and left-handed batters have proved particularly troublesome for the right-hander’s lack of control, roughing him up to the tune of a .314/.368/.629 mark thus far.
Typically, if you’re a right-handed pitcher, a cutter is a valuable weapon against someone in the left-handed batter’s box. That is, unless you can’t locate it, as has been the case through three starts for Stroman.
Opponents have teed off against that pitch so far this year, putting up a .600 batting average and 1.200 OPS on the 41 cutters he’s thrown this year (37 of which were delivered to left-handed batters). If you can’t get that pitch in on the hands effectively, it winds up catching a lot of barrel – as we’ve seen.
Sensing a trend here? Stroman being successful and finding his groove comes down to the same mantra of real estate: location, location, location.
When he gets ahead of hitters, he’s found success. In pitcher-friendly counts, batters are hitting just .188/.188/.313 against him. But when the tables are turned, the narrative quickly shifts – and opponents have lit him up in dramatic fashion (.391/.517/.870).
Want your voice heard? Join the Cubbies Crib team!
Like I said, it’s not anywhere close to time to worry. We’re three starts into the season, coming off a shortened ramp-up period in spring training. Stroman hasn’t found it yet – but he will.