Justin Steele's Latest Outing Extends His Incredible Streak

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Justin Steele’s Latest Outing Extends His Incredible Streak

Chicago Cubs

Eventually, Justin Steele is going to have a clunker. We know it’s coming, because it comes for everyone at some point. It’s just that Steele doesn’t seem particularly interested in having one any time soon.

The latest great outing for Steele came against an admittedly terrible Oakland A’s team, going 6.0 innings, allowing 1 ER on 4 H and 2 BB, striking out 5. More than half of the balls in play were hit on the ground. It was more outstanding work from a guy who has been outstanding for a good long while:

The “good long while” extends back to AT LEAST last June, a period over which Steele has made 14 starts, thrown 79.1 innings, and has posted a 1.47(!) ERA. He’s been elite. Heck, those results have been elite AMONG the elite. Only Justin Verlander’s ERA has been better, and he hasn’t pitched yet this year.

And if you get even more recent, Steele’s 1.17 ERA since July 22 is the best in baseball (among starters with at least 10 starts).

“I felt like even the first half of last year, I was constantly putting stuff together, figuring stuff out, always adapting, always learning,” Steele told Cubs.com. “And I kind of feel like the stuff that was going on in the first half started coming together and falling my way, and I just kind of caught a groove.”

That has been the story of Steele with the Cubs – piece together the development, bit by bit, becoming better and better versions of himself. I’m not saying he’ll keep posting a sub-2 ERA for the rest of the year, but it doesn’t seem like he’s really figured out HOW to work with his stuff.

For example, how many starting pitchers succeed with just two pitches? Almost none. But Steele knows himself. Knows what he can DO with those two pitches.

“It’s super impressive,” Tucker Barnhart said of what Steele does, per Cubs.com. “You typically see that out of relievers, the two-pitch mix. But it’s funky, it’s relentless. His fastball just kind of goes away. Sometimes his slider turns into a curveball. Sometimes his curveball turns into a slider. So it looks maybe like two pitches, but sometimes it’s three, maybe four, even if he throws a straight heater and then he throws a fastball that cuts. But it shows how good both of those pitches are.”

Steele has impeccable command, yes, but he also reshapes his pitches constantly, so hitters aren’t really just seeing two pitches. It’s not as if they can decide they’re going to spit on the slider and focus exclusively on the four-seamer because the slider rarely looks the same, and the fastball moves differently at different times (which is how Steele’s barrel rate continues to be incredible). It’s a special thing, and I appreciate it more and more every time he takes the mound.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.