(670 The Score) The Cubs are confident that ace Justin Steele’s strong form will hold up in the homestretch of the season as he continues to pile up a career-high innings workload in a standout campaign.
Steele is 13-3 with a 2.79 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 22 starts in a career-high 126 innings this season, which still has 43 games remaining in the regular season and perhaps a playoff berth waiting for the Cubs if they perform well down the stretch. Steele’s previous high for innings was 119 in 2022, prior to which he hadn’t logged more than 98 2/3 innings in a single season.
With all that in mind, the Cubs don’t have any concerns about Steele’s workload and don’t plan to place any limitations on him late in the season, general manager Carter Hawkins said.
“It’s not a concern because the fact that he’s pitching really well is why he’s where he is,” Hawkins said on the Parkins & Spiegel Show on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a great problem to have. I think there’s a lot that’s said about innings pitched year over year, the Verducci effect that people hear about, that you’re more susceptible to injury if you throw 15 or 20% more year over year. Empirically, if you talk to (research and development) guys, they’re not finding any signal in that. Now, I think we can all understand that if you throw a million innings, you’re more likely to get hurt. I think the more realistic viewpoint is every time you throw a baseball, you have a chance to get injured. So the more times you throw a baseball, the more times you have a chance to get injured. There are different precursors that might talk a little bit about or might lead to injury – if you see a guy’s velo go down, if you see his mechanics change, if you see his force profile change, if you see body changes, these different readiness indicators that we’re constantly tracking. That’s something we’re constantly tracking with Justin and constantly tracking with all of our starters and all of our relievers. Regardless of whether he has 180 innings or has 20 innings, we’re tracking those things and giving guys rest when they need it.”
Hawkins then shared an “acute-to-chronic ratio” analogy tying to alcohol consumption to put in layman’s terms why the Cubs aren’t really worried about Steele’s workload. In the Cubs’ mind, they don’t view Steele’s workload through the prism of year-over-year as much as through his consistency in the 2023 season itself.
“Trust me, I don’t drink this many beers, but if I drank 10 beers every night for 10 days and then on the 11th day drank 11 beers, I’m not going to be that much more hungover on that 11th day because I’ve built up my alcohol tolerance,” Hawkins said. “If I drank one beer every night and then one day drank 11, I’m spiking. So I’m going to feel pretty bad that next day after my 11th.
“If you spike your workload … then you’re (putting yourself in a position) to be more susceptible to injury.”