I can’t let the Chicago Cubs shitting the bed for the past month take away my joy of watching Justin Steele develop into a bonafide ace. It’s no longer a small sample size of a few starts or even one great month because the Cubs lefty has been a dominant starting pitcher for a full calendar year.
On Sunday, Steele recorded his eighth quality start of the season, as he tossed six shutout innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. In those six innings, the Phillies were only able to generate four hits against Steele, while only drawing one walk all afternoon. The 27-year-old pitcher struck out six and lowered his season ERA to 2.20 through his first 10 starts.
By the way, Steele has only had one bad start and that was against the Houston Astros last week, when he gave up five runs in six innings. The only other time he has not recorded a quality start this year was on April 25, when Steele threw 5.1 innings against the San Diego Padres. His pitch count was nearing 100 and that’s really the only reason he wasn’t able to complete the sixth inning because otherwise he was getting the job done against the Padres. Steele allowed three hits and two walks, but did not give up a run in the 6-0 Cubs win against San Diego.
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Meanwhile, on May 10 against the St. Louis Cardinals, Steele got the win after pitching six innings and giving up three runs. That broke Steele’s streak of allowing two or fewer runs in 14 consecutive starts that dated back to the 2022 season.
And speaking of, in the last full calendar year, Steele has the fifth lowest ERA among starting pitchers with at least 150 innings pitched. Steele’s 2.54 ERA through his last 27 starts ranks ahead of Cy Young award winners Clayton Kershaw, Shane Bieber and Sandy Alcantara.
If you look closer at that list, Justin Verlander has only made four starts with the New York Mets, so really the only pitcher who has recorded a lower ERA than Steele in the National League for the past year has been Spencer Strider from the Atlanta Braves.
So far in 2023, Steele remains as one of the best starting pitchers in all of MLB. Here are his overall numbers.
Justin Steele First 10 Starts in 2023
61.1 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 3.15 xERA, 2.97 FIP, 4.05 xFIP, 198 ERA+
Steele’s 2.20 ERA ranks seventh best among the 70 starting pitchers with the minimum amount of innings to be qualified. Meanwhile, that’s the third best ERA among National League starting pitchers, behind Alex Cobb (1.94 ERA in 51 IP) and Bryce Elder (2.06 ERA in 52.1 IP).
What really catches your eye is that Steele has been able to maintain a dominant track record without being a huge strikeout pitcher. So far in 2023, he’s averaging 7.78 strikeouts per nine innings, which ranks 47th out of 70 starters. However, batters just cannot seem to figure out how to square him up because Steele has the lowest hard-hit percentage at 19.2 percent, which is 4.1 percent better than George Kirby’s second place number which is at 23.3 percent. That 4.1 percent difference is the same between second lowest and 10th lowest.
Justin Steele, folks, he’s the real deal.