Tuesday Trends: Disparate Pitching Performances During Losing Streak

It’s fun at this point, isn’t it?

I’m not sure an obsessive, teenage version of me would’ve ever believed that I’d reach a point in life where I could laugh off a 12-game losing streak, but here we are. What’s life if not an opportunity to laugh at yourself and the things you so foolishly love?

How have things been going along the way for Willson Contreras, Kyle Hendricks, Jason Heyward, and a bunch of other guys you mostly hadn’t heard of until about six weeks ago? Let’s take a peek.

Trending up

Justin Steele’s Shot at a 2022 Rotation Spot: Through his first two major league starts, Steele is certainly showing something. The young left-hander was solid enough in his debut against Milwaukee, surrendering three runs in five innings while generating loads of groundballs, but something missing from that start was the ability to generate whiffs and strikeouts.

That changed in Steele’s second start, as he struck out five Reds in only four innings. It hasn’t been total dominance, but the Cubs aren’t looking for that. They need to see what they’ve got in him as someone who could very well play into the team’s plans for 2022’s starting rotation.

So far, so good.

Holding steady

Alec Mills:  If the Cubs had a time machine, it’s a safe bet that they’d have just kept Mills in the rotation in 2021. The move they made to bump him out of it didn’t exactly work out, but we’ll get to that minute.

Mills sure has been good lately. Would you believe he has a 3.38 ERA over 34.2 innings pitched in his last seven starts? He’s not exactly missing bats over that stretch, striking out only 22, but he’s kept the walks down and has managed the contact well enough. And over his last couple of starts, no one could claim he’s simply benefited from an elite defense behind him.

Mills is one of relatively few guys on the roster who is almost certainly going to be with the Cubs in 2022 and as such, he’s auditioning for his role on the team. For a team with few locks, Mills is certainly doing everything he can to keep himself in the mix for what is likely to be a wide-open rotation.

Trending down

Jake Arrieta’s Cubs Reputation: Listen, Arrieta will always be a Cubs legend. From his Cy Young award to a pair of World Series wins, he certainly earned his share of accolades in blue pinstripes. Coming into the year, I was been pretty confident nothing that would happen in 2021 could change that. At least in my estimation, that assumption was wrong.

Arrieta has done everything he can to besmirch his previously un-besmirchable Cubs reputation. Cubs Insider EIC Evan Altman outlined the culmination of this year’s events well following Arrieta’s unconditional release from the team last week, but bear with me for some of the highlights.

The 2021 version of Arrieta showed himself to be someone who wouldn’t accept responsibility for his pitching, who by some accounts wouldn’t listen to coaches trying to help him adjust his approach to match his diminished skill set, and whose final act as a Cub was taking a potshot at a reporter for wearing a mask during a particularly virulent portion of a pandemic.

No, Arrieta didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in his return to the Cubs. It’s a reunion I’d bet both sides wish hadn’t happened, but happen it did, and Arrieta certainly did everything he could to tarnish his legacy in Chicago.

Regarding his many, many excuses for his poor performance in his return to the Cubs? Well, I’ve got one thought on that.

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