Peak Jake Arrieta, which we saw in the second half of the 2015 season and early on in 2016, was the stuff of legend. It may be decades before we see another run as dominant as the bearded right-hander was during that stretch.
That being said, Cubs left-hander Justin Steele managed to tie Arrieta’s franchise record of 14 straight starts allowing two or fewer earned runs with his outing on Friday, a testament to his emergence as one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball since the middway point of the 2022 campaign.
During this 14-start span, Steele has amassed 80 innings pitched (averaging just under six innings per outing), working to a 1.24 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. This year, in six starts, the young southpaw leads the league with a 1.49 ERA and 303 ERA+ and has emerged as an early NL Cy Young candidate in the National League.
Steele ranks third in the league in innings pitched (43.1), fifth in WHIP (0.95) and sixth in opponent batting average (.200) – but given he’s not a big strikeout guy (he’s averaging just 7.9 K/9 this year), he’s still somehow flying under the national radar.
Cubs have their ace(s) in Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman
One of the big knocks against the Cubs heading into 2023 was their lack of an apparent ace. Steele and Marcus Stroman have done their parts to spearhead the rotation in the season’s first month-plus, with the right-hander matching Steele virtually start-for-start, with a 2.18 ERA through seven outings.
But circling back to Steele’s tying of Arrieta’s franchise mark. As good as Steele has been – and he has been magnificent – somehow, it still pales in comparison to what the 2015 NL Cy Young winner did during his 14-game run: a 0.53 ERA and 0.65 WHIP in 101.1 innings of work.
The two have gone about their dominance in very different ways, with Steele essentially relying on a two-pitch mix to put away hitters and relying on his defense and Arrieta mixing up his arsenal and punching guys out at will. Regardless, the result has been the same: 14 starts in a row with two or fewer earned runs allowed.