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Cubs Rookie Shota Imanaga Dominating Early

MLB - Chicago Cubs - Shota Imanaga
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Chicago Cubs rookie Shota Imanaga has shown everyone that his team made the right decision when signing him out of Japan. He has been effective in all nine of his starts and was named National League Rookie of the Month for March/April.

Shota Imanaga is Dominating

Imanaga has pitched well in all of his starts and has been dominating. He has provided six of nine quality starts, winning five games. Along with 53.2 innings pitched, he has 58 strikeouts and just 36 hits allowed. He currently owns an MLB-leading ERA of 0.84. That is the lowest ERA through the first nine starts of any pitcher’s career since it became a stat in 1913.

Left-Hander Brings Experience

Although he’s a “rookie” in MLB, the 30-year-old left-hander brings some experience to the Cubs. He previously played in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) from 2016 to 2023. Imanaga is a two-time NPB All-Star who led the Central League in strikeouts in 2023 and threw a no-hitter in 2022.

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Scouting Shota Imanaga, MLB’s Next Star Pitcher?

Imanaga’s Pitching Style

Imanaga is not an overpowering pitcher, but he has multiple offerings in his arsenal. His fastball sits around 92 mph and has topped out at 96 mph. He also has a curveball and a slider with which he can induce many ground-ball outs. While not overpowering, he finds success with his changeup, too. Notwithstanding his command, confidence, and presence on the mound, he has completely foiled MLB hitters.

Cubs’ Starting Staff

The Cubs are fortunate to have an outstanding starting staff so far in the 2024 season. Along with Imanaga, Javier Assad is also undefeated and has four wins. Justin Steele, who was injured, is finally healthy and is ready to pitch like he did last season. His return will only help. Jameson Taillon has won three games and has an ERA of 1.61. Hayden Wesneski is also pitching well and currently has a 2.00 ERA.

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Imanaga is Certainly Needed

Imanaga is great for this team. He and the other starters have maintained a winning record, which has been especially important with the offense sputtering to a .233 team batting average, fifth-lowest in the National League. At their current pace, it would also be the lowest in franchise history in a 162-game season.

Taking on the Ace Role

Imanaga emerged as the Cubs’ ace while Steele was on the injured list. Just about six weeks into the season, he has already exceeded expectations. He has looked comfortable in challenging situations, never appeasing nervous or fatigued on the mound.

Looking at the National League Central

The Cubs are currently second in the NL Central behind the surprising Milwaukee Brewers. The Cincinnati Reds exceeded expectations in 2023, but many wonder if they can sustain that in 2024. The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off an extremely disappointing season and have injury concerns. The Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t quite there. This Cubs team can make a run for the NL Central title.

Currently, Chicago has the most complete roster within the division. However, they need the offense to get out of their hitting slump and the bullpen needs to be consistent when called upon. If they can do that soon with Imanaga leading a talented starting rotation, there’s no reason why this team couldn’t be serious contenders for a playoff spot in October.

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