Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

With a little over a month to go in the 2022 campaign, the Chicago Cubs have gone on a hot streak here – playing some of their best ball of the year in recent weeks.

Whether It’s Ian Happ hitting his 100th career home run, the emergence of new slugger Franmil Reyes or the excitement of prospects starting to get called up in the season’s final weeks, one area of the Cubs has stuck more than any in since the All-Star break: Pitching.

If you’ve been watching the games recently it goes without saying lately: the starting pitching has been phenomenal. Just how phenomenal are we talking though? How about second-best in the entire league since the Midsummer Classic with a team 2.96 ERA? That mark, post-ASG, trails only the best overall team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Check out team ERA’s on for more. That high-level view is impressive in and of itself, but even more so when you start honing in on individual performances.

In 2022, the league average ERA for a pitching is currently 3.97. If you haven’t noticed, all five Cubs in currently in the starting rotation have at least a 3.97 ERA or lower. Keegan Thompson currently sits at 3.97 exactly and that’s after a rough stretch as of late. However, Justin Steele, Marcus Stroman, Adrian Sampson and Drew Smyly are all considered to be “above average” pitchers this season. Of course, it is the recent stint of Cubs pitching that has this rotation off the charts as of late since the second half began.

Cubs starting rotation has largely been lights-out since the All-Star break

  • Justin Steele – 0.86 ERA, 6 GS, 31.1 IP
  • Drew Smyly – 2.34 ERA, 6 GS, 34 IP
  • Marcus Stroman – 2.50 ERA, 6 GS, 36 IP
  • Adrian Sampson – 3.71 ERA, 5 GS, 26.2 IP
  • Keegan Thompson – 5.87 ERA, 5 GS, 23 IP

Thompson, of course, recently landed on the 15-day IL with a back issue that just may be hindering his ability to harness the command we saw so much of earlier in the season. We can’t overlook the fact the right-hander has also nearly doubled his total career innings pitched since last season. Thompson did toss 129 2/3 innings back in 2018 in the minors, but since then has not gone past the 53 1/3 he put up last year. Needless to say, 104 1/3 frames this season is a dramatic increase from last year and it’s probably for the best that he’s getting an extended breather.

Both Smyly and Sampson have been paramount in the team’s recent success. Between the 11 combined starts they’ve made, the duo has managed to eat up 60 2/3 innings total which has only further helped keep the bullpen more rested, giving you better results as a whole. Sampson, of course still has three years of arbitration, and can be utilized in a multitude of ways moving forward. As for Smyly, we’ll have to wait and see if both sides want to agree on that mutual option for 2023 or hammer out a new deal entirely.

Chicago starters have amassed 14 quality starts in the last 30 games. Most notably, the cap has to be tipped in Justin Steele’s direction with his shiny 0.86 ERA since the break. He not only has gone at least six innings in his last 3 starts, but since July 22, he has allowed just three earned runs in 31 1/3 beautiful frames as he continues his stellar breakout season and solidifies himself as an important piece of the starting rotation moving forward. Do not let this team’s record overshadow the success a lot of players have found individually this year. This season is all about player development and recognizing who is a core piece moving forward.

More on Steele as I do believe he deserves quite a bit more recognition for this success right now.  The strikeouts are fantastic to see: in his last 22 2/3 innings, he has notched 33 punchouts. It may not be Jake Arrieta’s second half performance of 2015, but the point is clear: this kid is putting the rest of the league on notice of late.

Next. Optimism has returned to the Friendly Confines. dark

If you’re looking for a bit of good news, there it is. Steele once looked like a solid back end piece of a future Cubs starting rotation, but he been nothing less than the ace of this pitching staff and I have no problem penciling him in as the club’s #2 moving forward. An ace could change the equation entirely next season, but  Justin Steele, Marcus Stroman and Keegan Thompson is a pretty nice place to start.