What can the Cubs expect in year two from Marcus Stroman?

(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images) /

Despite plenty of ups and downs along the way, Marcus Stroman turned in a solid body of work in his first year as a member of the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander finished with a 3.50 ERA, which checked in well below the league average mark of 3.96 – and it’s not hard to see how he could’ve lowered that mark even further.

One disastrous June start in which he allowed nine earned runs in just four innings did him no favors. It’s safe to say, though, we can chalk that outing up to Stroman not being at full strength. If you recall, after that start, the veteran began a 23-day stint on the IL with right shoulder inflammation. I know we can’t just cherry pick bad starts, but if you subtract that outing, his adjusted ERA sat at 3.01 on the year,  a far more respectable number for a guy you’re paying $25 million.

Though I believe an optimistic approach moving forward is warranted, there is one glaring stat that needs to be corrected in 2023. For the season, Stroman’s ERA at Wrigley Field was an underwhelming 5.18. To be fair, the same start we’re subtracting due to injury took place at Wrigley, however, subtracting this start again still leaves him with a below average mark of 4.18 in home games. Not horrible considering the often hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley, but just an area that needs improvement if he wants to reach true ace status. His road ERA of 2.06 was exceptional.

Heading into 2023, it’s all about staying healthy and taking the ball every five days. If he can be stronger at home and stay on the field all year long, he’ll get back to the innings-eating he’s done throughout his career.

For example, Stroman amassed 204 innings in 2016, 201 in 2017, 184 1/3 in 2019 and 179 with the Mets in 2021. Because of missing about five scheduled starts due to that 15-day IL stint along with a 10-day IL stint in early May due to COVID, it’s no surprise he reached just 138 1/3 frames this season. This mark was his smallest body of work over the course of a season since 2015.

I think having a normal offseason without a prolonged lockout can help every pitcher ramp up properly. If you recall, much like the 2020 pandemic season that started later than it should have, player’s routines were completely out of whack this spring. Some led to injury where others were eased in, increasing extremely gradually to a heavier workload, not hitting full stride until well into the summer.

Cubs: Marcus Stroman will play a key role if this team wants to contend

It’s been said for years: pitching wins championships. Of course, you need to have good hitters and good defense behind you. Unfortunately the Cubs started the season on the wrong foot, because in the second half, going 39-31, Chicago looked like a team that could have run away with the division had they played at such a pace over the course of the entire season. Stroman was a key part of that success. Utilizing his full arsenal and the movement on his pitches to keep hitters off-balance will continue to be the focal point for him.

Stroman’s sinker was by far his most effective pitch this season. . Although seeing a strikeout heavy pitcher can be exciting, sign me up for the guy that keeps his pitch count down, gets through seven innings and keeps the bullpen fresh in the process. Seeing the strong end to the 2022 season from the entire starting rotation is what enabled the bullpen to finish as dominant as it did, setting multiple records in the process.

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Though not as dominant as he was the year prior, Stroman played a key role for the Cubs rotation this season. Like I said: with a normal ramp-up period and spring training in 2023, I expect big things from the right-hander in the second year of his contract.