Should the Chicago Cubs be concerned about Marcus Stroman?Ryan Sikeson April 26, 2022 at 11:00 am

After inking Marcus Stroman to a three-year contract before the lockout, the Chicago Cubs were counting on the 30-year-old to play at a high level. He looked the part in his team debut against the Milwaukee Brewers, tossing 5.0 innings, yielding just two hits and one earned run while striking out three batters.

However, his last two starts have left a lot to be desired. Stroman lasted just 4.0 innings in Colorado, allowing five earned runs on six hits, including four extra-base hits. Against the Rays five days later, he left with one out in the fifth inning after allowing seven earned runs on eight hits.

“He’s accountable for his performance and understands it has to be better,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “The accountability thing is No. 1 on my radar. When you see players be accountable for their performance — good or bad — it’s super exciting to see.”

On Tuesday, Stroman is set to take the mound in Game 1 against the Atlanta Braves. Do his underlying statistics show that he’s close to a rebound? Let’s look.

Marcus Stroman’s last two starts haven’t been great. Should the Chicago Cubs be worried?

Per Baseball Savant, the Cubs right-hander is in the bottom seven percent of the league in exit velocity (93.1 mph) and hard-hit rate (54.8 percent). Both are career-lows, but batters are squaring him up at just a 4.8 percent barrel rate – the second-best mark of his MLB tenure.

Normally a strength in his pitching arsenal, opposing hitters are hammering Stroman’s cutter to the tune of a .600 and a 1.200 slugging percentage at an average 97.6 exit velocity. Four of the seven doubles allowed this season have come via this pitch.

He’s had to utilize his secondary pitches more often in the early goings of the season because he has struggled to command his primary pitch. Stroman’s sinker has been all over the place. As a result, his usage is at 32.8 percent, down from 42.3 percent last year.

Here’s a look at Marcus Stroman’s 24 sinkers today, and the heatmap for the same pitch in his two previous starts this year. Still hunting for command of that pitch out of the gates this season.

— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 21, 2022

His slider has been effective this year, yielding just a .167 batting average against a 31.3 percent whiff rate and a 25.0 percent putaway rate. Stroman’s split-finger has similar metrics.

It’s not time to panic just yet.

New team, new jitters. Remember that Jon Lester had a 6.23 ERA in his first month as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

Stroman still has plenty of time to settle down and re-gain confidence in his primary pitch. From there, the rest should take care of itself.

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