Cubs ace Justin Steele has returned to form with another dominant start

The Chicago left-hander's ERA continues to drop after a rocky start to his season.
San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs
San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages

It wasn't a pretty start to the season for Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Justin Steele. In his season debut, he pulled a hamstring, which led to a lengthy absence. Upon his return, it was evident that he needed to shake off the rust. Suffice to say, that rust is a thing of the past. Steele has been nothing short of dominant in his last five starts.

  • May 27: 7.0 IP, 0 ER
  • June 1: 5 IP, 1 ER
  • June 7: 7 IP, 1 ER
  • June 13: 6.0 IP, 0 ER
  • June 18: 6.2 IP, 2 ER

Justin Steele hitting his stride as Cubs' margin for error shrinks

For those keeping track at home, that's a 1.14 ERA in his last five starts, including four quality starts over that span. That is the electric Steele we've come to know in recent years. With Shota Imanaga, Javier Assad, and Jameson Taillon doing their thing, this rotation can still lead this team to success. At their best, the combination of Steele and Imanaga can be the best one-two punch in baseball.

I'm a fan of looking at advanced metrics and analytics to determine how I actually feel about a player's performance of late. Steele's 3.51 FIP is a fair number, given his struggle to return to form. Fangraphs already has him at a 1.0 fWAR on the season, roughly in line with ZiPS' projections through this point of the year. Looking at Baseball Savant, I'd like to point out his xERA, or expected ERA, suggests further improvement is coming. That mark sits at 3.03, or the 83rd percentile in all of baseball.

He's in the upper echelon of barrel percentage, and his walk rate sits at 6.4 percent, which is also above average. Essentially, everything is starting to click for the southpaw. As the Cubs look to turn the corner and get back on track, there's no better time for Steele to start putting it all together. The Cubs need him to be precisely what he is right now, and that is one-half of the two-headed monster atop the starting rotation.

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