The Chicago Cubs made a sizable financial commitment to pitcher Marcus Stroman, as they signed him to a three-year, $ 71 million contract.
Over his MLB tenure so far, Stroman has a 3.63 ERA, which is good, but not spectacular.
However, his performance tends to vary a lot from year to year.
For example, he was not that good in 2016 (4.37 ERA) and 2018 (5.54 ERA), but was excellent in 2017 (3.09 ERA) and 2019 (3.22 ERA).
Additionally, he was actually really, really good in the 2021 season with the New York Mets.
He had a 10-13 record, but finished with a nice 3.02 ERA in 179 innings in Queens.
His Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, was 3.49, which validates his good performances on the mound.
Stroman was the Mets’ most reliable starter while Jacob deGrom was out with an elbow injury, and finished with 3.4 Wins Above Replacement, or WAR.
A New Pitch
Part of the reason behind his highly successful 2021 campaign, in which he had a career-high 21.6 percent strikeout rate, was his excellent split-change, a pitch he developed in the 2020-21 offseason.
Marcus Stroman, Sick 82mph Split-Change… and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/Gje5ifRV5e
– Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 15, 2021
The split-change held batters to a .209 batting average and earned a solid 33.9 percent whiff rate, and it’s safe to say it was a good addition to his repertoire.
Can Stroman maintain this kind of performance in the 2022 campaign?
Can he take another step forward in 2022 and be a low-3.00s ERA pitcher again, this time for the Cubs?
Is he capable of striking out more than a hitter per inning for the first time in his career?
He will call Wrigley Field home, a place known for favoring hitters.
However, he is as well-equipped to handle the change in home field as anyone, because of his groundball tendencies.
His excellent sinker helps him to finish among the league leaders in groundball percentage year in and year out.
Last year, over half of his batted balls were on the ground, 50.8 percent.
Over his career, his groundball percentage is a steady 57.4 percent.
Which MLB pitchers in 2021 most often got batters to hit <75 MPH grounders?
– Codify (@CodifyBaseball) November 4, 2021
Nick Madrigal and Nico Hoerner, the projected starters at the middle infield positions, are also good fielders, which can only help.
The Leader Of The Cubs’ Rotation
He will be tasked, however, to lead the Cubs’ rotation and be the ace, barring any additional moves after the lockout ends.
For years, Stroman was the top dog in Toronto, but over the last couple of seasons, he did not have that kind of pressure because of some guy named deGrom.
With the Cubs, however, he will have the responsibility of not only leading the staff, but also serving as a mentor for the rest of the staff.
A student of the game, Stroman may not be able to push towards a 9.00 K / 9 (strikeouts per nine innings) without more velocity, but he has the talent to be a non-traditional ace.
His career-high in K / 9 was last year, with 7.94.
If he can at least break the 8.00 K / 9 barrier, keep his ERA in the low-3.00s and pitch near 200 frames, he can become the ace the Cubs need.
He does not have to be a high-K stud, but as long as he can at least earn some swings and misses and keep most of the batted balls on the ground, he should lead the rotation swiftly.