The inopportune home run. This is what has plagued Chicago Cubs reliever Pedro Strop for much of his career. One such moment stands out in my head. A warm mid-summer day in St. Louis. The Cubs, who had won the first two games in the series, had Jon Lester on the mound. Having just pitched a brilliant game, Pedro was given the nod. Walking Matt Carpenter on four pitches, Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta sent a two-strike pitch over the wall.
It seems all Cubs fans have a Pedro blown game memory. But what if I said he might be the BEST reliever the Cubs ever had?
No, I’m not off my rocker, I’m not drunk (it’s 7:30 AM), and I’m not high.
First, try and compile a list of great Cubs relievers. It’s a difficult task. You have guys like Bruce Sutter and Lee Smith, then maybe Ryan Dempster makes an appearance, Sean Marshall leads perhaps a group of short-term guys.
But the lack of high-quality arms isn’t the only argument. Pedro has been very good while in Chicago.
Pedro owns a 2.65 ERA, 0.996 WHIP, 2.95 FIP, and 150 ERA+ in 258 innings playing for the Cubs. But I’m sure the argument is his inconsistency. While he might give up a less than desirable amount of walks (3.5 per nine) he’s only given up 19 homers in his five seasons in Chicago. In fact, looking at his Cubs career BABIP (.240) suggests he is pitching much better than the league (2017 league average BABIP is .309). One would assume Pedro benefits from a bit of luck, but over five seasons he’s built a track record.
When you compare Pedro to Bruce Sutter, it’s really a closer comparison than you’d think. Sutter, who is in the Hall of Fame, had pitched in about 100 more innings in 15 more appearances than Strop. Then of course Sutter has 127 more saves in a Cubs uniform than Pedro. From there on, it’s very similar.
Sutter – 2.35 ERA 1.055 WHIP 171 ERA+ 2.32 FIP 9.0 SO9
Strop – 2.65 ERA 0.996 WHIP 150 ERA+ 2.95 FIP 10.6 SO9
Go ahead and add a couple others.
Dempster – 4.10 ERA 1.427 WHIP 111 ERA+ 3.86 FIP 8.1 SO9
Marshall – 3.29 ERA 1.236 WHIP 131 ERA+ 3.17 FIP 8.8 SO9
Smith – 2.92 ERA 1.255 WHIP 134 ERA+ 2.76 FIP 8.5 SO9
Marmol – 2.90 ERA 1.243 WHIP 150 ERA+ 3.30 FIP 12.6 SO9
So while Pedro has his hot/cold streaks, he compares very reasonably to the best Cubs relievers of all-time. He might not have the saves others do, but that hasn’t been his job. He is a high-leverage bullpen arm – and has been one of the best the Cubs organization has ever seen.