On July 2, 2013, the Cubs made one of the best trades in team history when they got Jake Arrieta from the Baltimore Orioles for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. As we remember, Arrieta had a run of dominance unlike any we’ve ever seen from a Cubs pitcher and was a key player in helping to break The Curse.
But the Cubs also got another pitcher in that trade: Pedro Strop. Strop hasn’t received the headlines that Arrieta has, yet his role on the team over the past few years should be unquestioned. And while Arrieta is now gone, Strop remains – and he continues to get the job done.
It seems that the only time Strop receives any headlines is when he has the rare bad outing and short-sighted fans are calling for the team to get rid of him. And that’s a shame. Years from now, when we look back on this run of Cubs greatness, we’ll remember Arrieta. We’ll remember all the great moments of Rizzo and Bryant and Schwarber and Lester and even Chapman. But will we remember Strop?
Well, we should. He’s currently the second longest-tenured Cub (trailing only Anthony Rizzo in service time) and has been remarkably consistent since joining the team in 2013. Check out these ERA totals over the past six years: 2.83, 2.21, 2.91, 2.85, 2.83, 2.68. And since appearing in 37 games in half a season in 2013, he’s appeared in over 50 games each year since (except this year, though he’s appeared in 48 games, on pace to fly past 50). This includes 2016, when he missed much of the second half due to injury.
In an era when players come and go so frequently – especially in the bullpen, the most unstable part of any team – Strop has been a mainstay, through the lean years all the way up until now. And that’s why I’m happy that, at 33 years old, he’s finally getting a chance to be the team’s closer. With Brandon Morrow on the disabled list, Strop has finally earned a promotion – temporary though it may be – from his critical 7th or 8th inning role into the team’s last line of defense in the 9th.
And he’s been getting the job done, earning his ninth save in a tight one-run victory over Washington on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. It could have unraveled when Strop dropped what would have been the final out while covering first base, but he quickly recovered to strike out Trea Turner to end the game.
It’s the latest example of how the pressure of the big moment doesn’t seem to get to him. We know Strop for wearing his hat crooked and his quick pitches, but the results speak for themselves. As important has Strop has been to the team’s success in recent years, here in 2018, he may be more important than ever. And he’s coming through in a big way.
As I look back over the past several years, I’m disappointed that Pedro Strop hasn’t received more credit. It’s too bad that injuries prevented him from taking on a bigger role during the 2016 postseason and cementing his legacy in Cubs history even more, but other than that he’s been one of the team’s most reliable players throughout this entire run. Let’s give this guy some credit already.
Brian Johnston is the author of the book The Art of Being a Baseball Fan, his story of following the 2015 Chicago Cubs, available on Amazon. He lives in St. Joseph, Michigan with his wife and two children.