Of course, they didn’t get just Strop. Jake Arrieta also came over in that deal as well and gave the Cubs four and a half outstanding seasons. That makes this trade one of the best in franchise history.
But Strop’s contributions to the Cubs in relief over the last five and a half seasons have been, in general, outstanding, and he doesn’t get enough credit for them. So I decided to write this article to give him some of that credit.
The Cubs were able to acquire Strop, who had a very good year for Baltimore in 2012 (2.44 ERA, 1.342 WHIP, 1.5 bWAR), because he had pitched poorly for the O’s in 2013 (7.25 ERA, 1.701 WHIP, -0.9 bWAR) in 29 appearances.
Or had he? Of the 18 earned runs Strop allowed for Baltimore before the trade, 10 of them were in three bad outings. He had begun to throw better in his appearances just before the deal, and that’s likely when the Cubs were scouting him.
On joining the Cubs’ bullpen, he almost immediately returned to his 2012 form. He didn’t allow a run over his first 12 appearances and struck out 13 in 10⅔ innings. After he got pounded in a really bad outing by the Brewers July 29, 2013 (yikes, you probably don’t want to click on that boxscore link), he put together nine more scoreless outings in a row, striking out 11 in 10⅔ innings. Overall for the Cubs in 2013: 37 appearances, 2.83 ERA, 0.942 WHIP, 42 strikeouts in 35 innings.
And that’s essentially what he’s done over the last five-plus seasons. Overall with the Cubs, through Thursday: 348 appearances, 317⅔ innings, 2.72 ERA, 1.036 WHIP, 365 strikeouts and 123 walks. That’s a 3.5 walk rate per nine innings, and a 10.3 strikeout rate. His season ERA has never been below 2.21 or above 2.91, a model of consistency. All of that has produced 6.4 bWAR, making him a useful part of the Cubs bullpen every year he’s been part of it.
Maddon attributes a lot of that sustained success to Strop’s sheer physical strength and ability to keep his arm healthy.
”He puts the ball on the ground and he has a wipeout slider that works against righties and lefties,” Maddon said. “So I think the fact that he’s been healthy and as strong as he is with really dominant stuff — he has the kind of stuff that can be closer stuff, but he’s so valuable being able to move him around.
”If you look at his numbers over the last several years, he’s probably as consistent as any reliever in baseball.”
In that same article, Strop talks about how he helps keep the clubhouse loose:
“We have fun,” he said. “That’s part of the game. I don’t want to go home 10 years from now and when my kids ask me, ‘Hey Papi, did you have fun when you played?’ I want to say yes.
”I try to put my teammates in the same mood every time. Sometimes you’re in a bad mood, but I make sure they’re in a good mood by the time they go and pitch.”
He’s always having fun. Remember this?
Here’s the game in Cincinnati in 2016 when Strop (and Travis Wood and Spencer Patton) all played a bit of left field. (Scroll in to about 1:30 to see Pedro in the outfield. He was having fun!)
Pedro also heads up this leaderboard:
Here's an obscure #Cubs career leaderboard...— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 12, 2018
Most games pitched in franchise history without any starts:
329 Pedro Strop
300 Bruce Sutter
296 Héctor Rondón
276 Terry Adams
265 Michael Wuertz
That’s from two months ago — as noted above, Pedro now has 348 appearances for the Cubs. He’s also transitioned into a temporary closer role until Brandon Morrow returns, and has eight saves, nearly half his career total of 17.
Middle relievers and setup men like Pedro Strop often don’t get the recognition they deserve. He’s been a solid part of the Cubs bullpen for more than five seasons and the Cubs have a $6.25 million option on him for 2019 that they’ll almost certainly exercise.
We should all celebrate Pedro Strop. He doesn’t get the media coverage that closers get, or be noted for his contributions to the team, but he’s been a great contributor, and I hope that continues for as long as he’s able to pitch this way.