Kyle Hendricks, Stroman, and Steele to lead Cubs into second half against Red Sox

With the second half of the season almost underway, the Chicago Cubs have a reliable trio set to face the Boston Red Sox.

Chicago Cubs v New York Yankees
Chicago Cubs v New York Yankees / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages
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Saturday: Marcus Stroman (9-6, 2.96 ERA) vs James Paxton (5-1, 2.73 ERA)

Don't let his last two starts fool you, Marcus Stroman has put the Cubs on his back this season.

Through 19 starts and 112.1 innings with the Cubs this season, Stroman ranks fourth in the National League (and 11th across all of baseball) in ERA with his 2.96 and sits sixth in the NL in WHIP at 1.11.

For Stroman, much of his success is attributed to his heavy sinker usage, using it 45.4% of the time out of his repertoire to contribute to a second-best in baseball 59% ground ball rate. Hitters are posting a .224 average and .291 slugging against the sinker, but when generating whiffs, his slurve (35% whiff rate) and cutter (26.1% whiff rate) have come in handy in his 21.6% strikeout rate.

Between those three pitches, Baseball Savant has them at a combined 21-run value, led by the slurve with an 8 individually.

The first half of the season awarded Stroman with his second career All-Star nod, especially after a star-studded June with a 2.17 ERA across 29 innings, but Stroman isn't the only one in this matchup coming off a hot June. But, similarly to Friday's matchup, Saturday has another case of opposite pitchers as Stroman gears up to face one who ranks towards the bottom of the league in ground ball rate.

Sidelined with the Tommy John recovery process and a hamstring injury, James Paxton didn't make his return to the mound until May 12th after missing all of 2022, but his return has been something for Red Sox fans to find joy in after the 34-year-old has come back with a 2.73 ERA across 56 innings in 10 starts.

June alone has kept Paxton on the good side of Boston, taking home AL Pitcher of the Month honors after posting a 1.74 ERA across 31 innings with a 0.77 WHIP, the fourth-best WHIP in baseball for the month of June.

In his return to the mound, Paxton has been relying on his four-seamer 56.9% of the time, just as he's done for his 11-year career in the Majors. Historically, his four-seamer has ranked at the top of his arsenal in run value, peaking at a 17 in 2017 while with the Mariners.

With the four-seamer, it's proved to be valuable alongside his cutter and curveball to generate whiffs, led by a 37.9% whiff rate on the curve. All come into play when considering his 29.1% K rate and overall tends to produce more whiffs and fly balls rather than ground balls with a 37.9% ground ball rate this season.

As I said, Saturday has two different types of pitchers on the mound, but who doesn't love getting to see different displays of art?