For much of the first half, Marcus Stroman was on a whole different level, dominating at will every time he took the mound. But he hasn't pitched like that in months. Despite that fact, the Cubs decided to bump Javier Assad from the rotation in the last week, re-inserting their All-Star right-hander back into the rotation, despite the fact he wasn't yet stretched out coming off a lengthy IL stint.
The results speak for themselves: two starts, totaling just five innings with five earned runs. In his first start back, Stroman lasted just three innings, allowing three earned on five hits. The man tasked with mopping up his mess and keeping the Cubs in the game? None other than Assad, who was nothing short of brilliant, tossing four scoreless frames and striking out six.
Cubs made a major miscalculation in bringing Marcus Stroman back into the starting rotation for the playoff push
I get the desperation here. After all, Chicago has watched its 92% playoff odds from early September come crashing down in dramatic fashion and with key injuries in the bullpen, the club is just looking for any sort of solution here. Stroman, who had a handful of relief appearances before moving back to the rotation, hadn't pitched out of the pen since his rookie season. Assad has shown the ability to excel in either role all season long.
But expecting Stroman to come back and be ready to give the team quality performances every five days was foolish. He wasn't right in the weeks leading up to his IL stint and he hasn't gotten his feet back under him. The need for help in the bullpen is painfully obvious - but I don't know that this was the right path forward given how well Assad had pitched since taking Stroman's spot in the rotation.
The veteran hurler himself summed it up after his latest start that saw the Braves complete a three-game sweep of the Cubs in Atlanta:
"Everything that could be going wrong is going wrong. Hopefully we washed it on this trip and hopefully luck starts being in our favor in Milwaukee."- Marcus Stroman
Stroman will almost certainly be back in a Cubs uniform via a $21 million player option in 2024. But the Cubs did him and themselves a disservice by rolling the dice in the season's final week and seeing if he could pull them back from the brink of collapse.