MLB Rumors: Pedro Strop is down to the Texas Rangers and the Miami Marlins, according to Hector Gomez on Twitter. The free agent relief pitcher had previously also been linked to the Chicago Cubs, for whom he had pitched the last several seasons, and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Strop, of course, was a Texas Ranger a decade ago, and was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles for lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez in August, 2011. The Orioles then sent him and Jake Arrieta to the Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger in one of the more regrettable moves the O’s have made in recent years, as Arrieta blossomed into an ace and Strop was a very good late inning reliever for the Cubs.
Strop, who turns 35 in June, put up a 2.61 ERA and a 3.10 FIP in 296.1 IP in 324 games from 2014-18 for the Cubs, but struggled badly in 2019, putting up a 4.97 ERA and 4.53 FIP while seeing his walk rate go up and his home run rate double.
Looking deeper in the numbers for Strop is interesting, as he had a 4.19 xFIP in 2019, very similar to the 4.08 xFIP he put up in 2018 and the 3.80 xFIP he had in 2017. His ERA in both 2017 and 2018 was not only significantly lower than his FIP, due to putting up very low BABIPs (which he has done his entire career, interestingly enough — he has a career .260 BABIP) as well as doing a better than expected job of keeping fly balls in the park. One can argue that, while he wasn’t as bad in 2019 as the ERA suggests, he also wasn’t nearly as good in 2017-18 as his ERA those years suggest, either.
If we look at SIERA, it suggests that his 2017-19 seasons weren’t all that different, as well. After posting a SIERA ranging from 2.52 to 3.07 each season from 2013-16, he had a 3.61 SIERA in 2017, 3.69 in 2018, and 3.94 in 2019.
Looking at Strop’s velocity in 2019 on Fangraphs’ “Pitch Type” data, his slider wasn’t thrown quite as hard as the previous couple of seasons, but at 83.1 MPH matched his career average for that pitch, while his cutter, which only shows up in the last three seasons, is also pretty much in line with the previous couple of seasons. His fastball, however, dropped to 93.6 MPH — significantly lower than his career 95.5 average.
The Pitch Info data at Fangraphs breaks out Strop’s four seamer and sinker into two categories, but the takeaway is basically the same — 2-3 mph drops in both fastballs compared to his average, with his other pitches showing a negligible decrease, if any.
Looking at Statcast’s data, Strop had a .301 xwOBA in 2019, compared to a .318 wOBA — an indication that the opposition’s results were a little better than what would be expected, given the quality of contact allowed, strikeouts and walks. If we compare that to the previous couple of years, we see he appears to have outperformed what would have been expected in 2018 (a .287 xwOBA compared to a .242 actual wOBA), though he underperformed in 2017 (.275 v. .265).
There’s not a simple answer here. Strop’s fastball went south in 2019, both in velocity and effectiveness (it had a significantly negative value, per Fangraphs, with his two-seamer in particular dropping precipitously in terms of contact allowed, while his slider was as effective as ever. Nevertheless, in terms of expected stats, he was fairly similar to what he his expected stats were the previous couple of years.
Strop dealt with hamstring and neck issues last year, and it may be that the physical issues sapped some of his fastball velocity, thus reducing its effectiveness, but being healthy in 2020 would mean improvement there. It may also be that he’s simply getting old and his body isn’t what it used to be, and what we saw from him in 2019 was simply the latest example of Father Time being undefeated.
I don’t have a strong opinion about signing Pedro Strop. If its on a minor league deal or (more likely) a relatively inexpensive one year major league deal, I wouldn’t take issue with it, as there are indicators that he may be poised to rebound in 2020 and be a useful bullpen arm. There’s also a not-insignificant risk that he’s done, or can’t stay healthy. Its the type of decision on the margins that doesn’t have a clear right or wrong answer.