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BCB After Dark: Imanaga to the rescue

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks if the Cubs are better than last year with the signing of Shōta Imanaga.

2023 World Baseball Classic: Championship Team USA v. Team Japan Photo by Rob Tringali/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It’s a joyous night here at BCB After Dark: the grooviest hangout for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Everyone is finally in a good mood, so come on in and celebrate with us. There’s no cover charge. We still have a couple of good tables available. Bring your own beverage.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.

Last night I asked you when the Cubs would finally sign a major league free agent and the answer was “Today!” The results are moot now, but 22 percent of you thought that the Cubs would sign someone by the end of the week and another 31 percent felt it would take until the end of January.

Oh what the heck. I’m breaking out Judy.

By the way, how much fun and/or how terrifying is it going to be for Shōta Imanaga to have to make his American media debut at the Cubs Convention? At least I’m assuming he’s going to meet the fans at the Cubs Convention. It would be disappointing if he didn’t.

So here’s the part where I put the music and the movies. Those of you who skip that can do so now. You wont hurt my feelings.


We continue our tribute to the late Les McCann, who passed away at the end of December. Here McCann is in Paris in 1961 with this rollicking tune “Go On and Get That Church.” Herbie Lewis is on bass and Ron Jefferson is on drums.


Just a reminder that you still have time to vote in the BCB Winter Western Classic between High Noon and A Fistful of Dollars. And coming up tomorrow, we’ve got The Good, the Bad and the Ugly facing off against The Magnificent Seven. That’s truly a matchup of two of the greatest musical scores in the history of film. And the movies themselves, apart from the music, are pretty darn good too.


Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.

The Cubs welcomed left hander Shōta Imanaga to the team today. I guess people are saying the deal isn’t official yet—Imanaga has yet to take a physical. But if the deal wasn’t basically done except for that, the Cubs’ front office and Imanaga’s agents would have been calling up baseball writers and pushing back on the reports. That we aren’t getting any of those reports except for “the deal is done” tells me that it’s going to happen unless the Cubs find a live racoon living in Imanaga’s shoulder.

Imanaga is essentially replacing Marcus Stroman, who declined his third option year and whom the Cubs have shown little interest in bringing back.

So tonight I’m going to ask you: Is Imanaga an improvement over Stroman? I’m not going to ask you who is going to have the better year in 2024. Stroman is three years older and we don’t yet know where he’s going to pitch. He could end up in Coors or somewhere with a crappy infield defense. It’s not a sure thing that Imanaga will have a better 2024 than Stroman, but I think it’s likely, just because of Stroman’s age and injury issues.

What I am going to ask you is do you think Imanaga will be an improvement over Stroman? That’s a tougher question than I thought it would be. Imanaga’s Streamer projections over on Fangraphs looks like this:

3.84 ERA. 26 starts. 148 IP. 9.17 K/9. 2.40 BB/9. 1.24 HR/9. 3.91 FIP

Stroman’s line over the past two years:

2022: 3.50 ERA. 25 starts. 138.2 IP. 7.72 K/9. 2.34 BB/9. 1.04 HR/9. 3.79 FIP

2023: 3.95 ERA. 27 starts. 136.2 IP. 7.84 K/9. 3.42 BB/9. 0.59 HR/9. 3.58 FIP

So yeah, that’s close. More strikeouts for Imanaga. Fewer home runs for Stroman. Stroman did have a big uptick in walks last year, but the projection is nearly identical to Stroman’s 2022 season.

Imanaga is left-handed. That’s a big difference how he gets outs, but not really much of a difference in results.

To be clear, projection systems are not as accurate for players coming over from NPB as they are with current MLB players. For one, there just aren’t as many examples to draw from in the projections. For another, there are just a lot more variables for a pitcher coming over from Japan.

Most analysts seem to think that Imanaga projects out to be a #3 pitcher. Baseball America has been clear that they see him as more of a #4/#5. But Stroman is (or at least was) a pretty typical #3 starter. So an optimistic projection would have him be a little better than Stroman. A pessimistic one would have him as worse. With Japanese players, there is a much larger range of realistic outcomes. They are much more likely to sink or swim in an unfamiliar environment.

Remember, I’m not asking you if Imanaga will be better than Stroman this year. I’m asking you if Imanaga this year will be a better pitcher this year than Stroman has been over the past two seasons. Basically I’m asking “Did the Cubs just improve over 2023?”

Poll

Will Shōta Imanaga be an improvement over Marcus Stroman for the Cubs?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Yes!
    (184 votes)
  • 6%
    No!
    (20 votes)
  • 37%
    They’ll be about the same
    (122 votes)
326 votes total Vote Now

Thank you so much for stopping by this evening. I hope you’re leaving in a better mood than when you arrived. Please get home safely. Stay warm. Tip your waitstaff. And join us again tomorrow for more BCB After Dark.