It can only mean one thing: Pedro Strop is making his way to the mound.
The actual measurement of the degree of rotation is a closely guarded secret (which is the fancy way of me saying I’ve never asked him), though I’d estimate it at about 30 degrees.
The Cubs’ crooked-cap wearing reliever turns 34 years old today. Let’s appreciate him.
He was originally acquired on July 2, 2013, with Jake Arrieta from the Orioles in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.
Feldman was the biggest impact name in the trade at the time. The 47-36 Orioles were looking to fortify their rotation; the 35-45 Cubs were looking to cash in on a solid start by Feldman, who posted a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts (including a 12-strikeout masterpiece against the Padres on May 1).
Arrieta was once a top-100 prospect (No. 99 on the 2010 Baseball America list), but had floundered to a 5.46 ERA for the orange birds. When he reached Chicago, things changed quickly, and all of a sudden Arrieta’s name was synonymous with a husky right-hander who pitched his last game in 1911 - Cy Young. Arrieta took home the Cy Young award in 2015, posting a 1.77 ERA (including 0.75 after the All-Star break).
Every start sent me scrambling to Baseball-Reference to frame his latest start in some unfathomable historical perspective. In the 2015 Wild Card game, the Pittsburgh crowd greeted Arrieta with a stadium-wide blackout, but it was the Pirates who were blacked out after the smoke cleared. Arrieta left the Steel City as the only pitcher in postseason history to toss a shutout with 10+ strikeouts and no walks. The next season, he was an All-Star and a key member of the World Series champion rotation.
He was solid in 2017, but not quite what he had been the previous few seasons. Then he hit free agency and left for Philadelphia.
So he’s gone. But Pedro Strop is still here.
Maybe he didn’t have the meteoric rise of a Jake Arrieta, but that’s okay. He started out excellent and stayed that way.
Pedro Strop with Cubs
Entering Thursday's game against the Dodgers, Strop holds a 4.85 ERA, but if you look at everything else – same hits per nine innings of about 5 1/2. His strikeout rate is about one per inning, while his WHIP is at an even 1.000. When it’s all said and done, he’ll be right where he always ends up.
He's already fourth in franchise history with 376 career relief appearances, one of eight Cubs ever to relieve 300 times or more.
If you were to sort those Cubs with 300+ relief appearances by ERA+ - which is ERA adjusted for league and ballpark on a scale of 100 (101 is one percent above league average, 110 is 10 percent above league average, 99 is one percent below league average, 90 is ten percent below league average, etc.) - Strop is second only to Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter.
Cubs with at least 300 relief apperances sorted by ERA+
Sutter, Strop, Smith and Marmol are clearly the top four of the group. Let’s dig in on those four.
Career with Cubs
|Pedro Strop||150||344 1/3||28.1||9.5||1.019||.181||.273||.280|
|Lee Smith||134||681 1/3||22.8||9.3||1.255||.237||.309||.328|
|Carlos Marmol||124||542 1/3||29.8||15.5||1.329||.185||.329||.301|
It’s Sutter, Strop and Smith. I’ll give Sutter and Smith a little extra credit because they routinely worked longer outings. Marmol walked too many to be in the same class.
Besides being one of the top relievers in Cubs history, Strop has been one of the best in baseball since being acquired by the Cubs (July 3, 2013 to present).
Pedro Strop MLB ranks July 3, 2013 to present
Among 149 pitchers with 200+ relief appearances over that span
|Opponent batting average||.181||5th|
Perhaps he doesn’t get the same attention as other relievers because he doesn’t dominate the save column, but it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t been one of the more valuable relievers in the game.
Also, Strop has made three birthday appearances in his career and he tossed a scoreless inning in all three (and his team won all three games).
Turn that hat to the left (exactly how much, I still don’t know, but I intend in finding out), and wish Pedro Strop a happy 34th birthday.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.