Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

jake arrieta vintageJake Arrieta capped off his incredible, historic, incredibly-enjoyable regular season last night with six scoreless innings, marking his 20th consecutive quality start. It was easily one of the best Cubs pitching seasons of all-time, and you can probably chop the word “Cubs” out of there, leaving it still true, depending on how broad your list.

We’ll be breaking down, highlighting, savoring Arrieta’s season for many months to come, but some things to enjoy for today:

  • As you’ve probably heard by now, Arrieta’s second half 0.75 ERA is the best ALL-TIME.
  • Batters hit just .184 off of Arrieta this year – some of which is a credit to a defense, but most is a credit to the weak contact he induces – which was the best by a Cubs pitcher since 1907.
  • Speaking of which: Arrieta’s 56.2% groundball rate is the highest for a Cubs starter since the stat was tracked in the early 2000s. In other words, Arrieta was incredibly good both striking guys out and getting them to put the ball on the ground.

  • Arrieta finishes with a 1.77 ERA, and the last time a Cubs pitcher had an ERA under 2.00, it was during prohibition. During the era of baseball you would recognize, no Cubs pitcher has ever come even close to Arrieta’s ERA this year.
  • Arrieta’s FIP was 2.35 FIP, which you’ll recall is a measure of how much a pitcher is doing entirely on his own (it’s a way of summarizing how dominant a pitcher is with respect to balls that do not get put into play, which arguably undervalues weak contact, but it’s still very valuable). For recent context, Kerry Wood was never below 3.00 as a starter. Carlos Zambrano was never lower than 3.47. Even in Mark Prior’s overwhelming 2003 season, he had a 2.47 FIP.
  • xFIP is tracked only back to the early 2000s, but Arrieta’s 2.62 this year is the best in franchise history, a good chunk better than Prior’s 2.92 in 2003.

  • Arrieta’s spread between his K rate and his BB rate – 21.6% – is the best in Cubs history outside of that 2003 Prior season (22.6%).
  • That Prior season, by the way, was the only Cubs pitching season in the last 45 years featuring a fWAR (7.8) higher than Arrieta’s (7.3), despite Arrieta’s better results and more innings. The era plays a part in that, but even considering that context, Arrieta’s peripherals simply look better. You can dig in on the comparison further if you’d like, but I’m pretty confident that Arrieta’s season this year was actually quite a bit better than Prior’s.* I think, at the end of this process, I can say this was the best Cubs pitching season in the modern era, with Prior’s 2003 just behind. (Interestingly, Prior not only didn’t win the Cy Young that year, he finished third, behind Eric Gagne and Jason Schmidt.)
  • Some love for Greg Maddux’s 1992 season, which featured 39 more innings pitched than Arrieta, but a higher ERA (2.18), higher FIP (2.50), and lower WAR (7.0).

By the way:

  • Batters facing Jake Arrieta this year: .185/.236/.271.
  • Jake Arrieta batting this year: .152/.163/.266.
  • Batters facing Arrieta in the second half this year: .148/.204/.205.
  • Jake Arrieta batting in the second half this year: .195/.214/.341.
  • That’s right: on the season, batters essentially hit like Arrieta off of him. In the second half, Arrieta looked like Babe Ruth in comparison to how batters hit off of him.

*(If you’re wondering, Bill Hutchison and John Clarkson are at the top of the list, each posting multiple 10+ WAR seasons for the Cubs. It was a little bit of a different era back then in the 1800s, though, as each was starting about 70 games in a season and throwing 600 innings. Pfft. Pitchers these days.)

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