Not a single Cubs starter landed a spot in Friday’s starting pitcher power rankings released by MLB, but who would have imagined that Chicago’s No. 4 starter would have put up a performance that would warrant consideration for a spot on that list the very same day?
Though Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele (deservingly) garnered some votes for the list, Arkansas native Drew Smyly wanted in on the action with his stellar efforts on Friday afternoon.
In what was likely the best start of his 11-year career in the big leagues, Smyly flirted with history, carrying a perfect game clear into the eighth inning, ultimately losing it in perhaps the worst way possible as he collided with Yan Gomes while fielding a weak grounder from David Peralta, resulting in an infield single.
Regardless, Smyly recorded one of the most dominant starts the Cubs have seen in recent years, finishig the afternoon with 7 2/3 innings with the fluke single as the lone hit, striking out 10, the most he’s put up with the team, and not surrendering a single walk.
Is this all to say maybe he would have finished off the perfect game? We’ll never know. However, this does just serve as the most recent example of how Cubs starters are shocking the baseball world in the early weeks of the season.
Cubs starting pitching showcasing its depth early on in 2023
Cubs starters rank third across all of baseball in ERA this season (2.66), and Smyly has found himself falling in nicely in that mix. Despite a rocky first start of the season at the infamously hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, Smyly has been dominant in three starts that have followed, all coming against postseason teams from a year ago (including two against the Dodgers).
During this stretch, he’s produced a 1.18 ERA across 18 1/3 innings with 20 strikeouts – including a microscopic 0.87 ERA and 13 strikeouts against the Dodgers. Heading into Friday, Los Angeles ranked top 5 in MLB in wRC+ (and second in the NL behind only the Cardinals) and hard hit rate (35.7% – behind the Braves and Cardinals).
Nonetheless, Smyly has not only held the Dodgers to one run in 13 innings pitched in his two most recent starts, but also held them to some of the weakest contact Dave Roberts’ club has managed, with only one ball hit at above 89.8 MPH on Friday (98.1 MPH flyout from Mookie Betts). Smyly now ranks fourth in opponent exit velocity (84.2 MPH), while Cubs starters, as a whole, lead the Majors with the lowest hard hit mark (23.8%).
In case you need another reason to believe the Cubs could very well be back. Let it be the starting pitching, and Smyly showcased just how deep this rotation is with a historic showing at the Friendly Confines on Friday.