Tonight’s starter for the Cubs, Jake Arrieta, gets plenty of attention for what he does on the mound. And, of course, when he’s not at his Jake-Arrieta-est, he somehow gets even more attention.
But what about his bat? It seems like it’s not getting enough attention.
Consider that, in his ugly Cincinnati start, Arrieta’s pitching performance was (sadly) worth 0.9 runs below replacement level. But with two hits at the plate, including a homer, Arrieta’s bat was worth two runs above replacement level. Meaning that, in total, his contribution to the team that night was, overall, still worth about a run over a replacement level player.
To be clear, these stats aren’t really best used in tiny samples like this, but it’s still fun to note and serves to underscore a greater point and increasing trend: Arrieta has been an absolute terror with the bat (in the best possible way) and is by far the best hitting pitcher in baseball.
Consider, that among all starting pitchers with at least 20 plate appearances in 2016 (Arrieta has 39), Arrieta has been far and away the most valuable, having been worth 0.7 WAR already. During that stretch, Arrieta has slashed .294/.368/.500, which is good for an absurd .374 wOBA and a 134 wRC+. He’s even walking 10.3% of the time with an ISO above 200 (.206).
And then, of course, there are the two home runs he’s already hit this season. There was the mammoth shot against the Diamondbacks, and here’s the last one against the Reds:
That homer was Arrieta’s second of the season (fourth of his career), which is tied for the most in baseball by a pitcher alongside Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard. But even the oft-proclaimed best hitting pitcher in baseball, Madison Bumgarner (who hit for himself in the AL and wants to be in the 2016 Home Run Derby), hasn’t got anything on Arrieta.
Check out their slash lines in 2016, side-by-side:
- Arrieta: .294/.368/.500 (.374 wOBA); 10.3% BB-rate, 35.9% K-rate; .206 ISO (0.7 WAR)
- Bumgarner: .182/.260/.364 (.270 wOBA), 10.0% BB-rate, 36.0% K-rate; .182 ISO (0.5 WAR)
As you can see, the difference between Arrieta and Bumgarner, who is the second best hitting pitcher in baseball this year, is over 100 points of wOBA. As you can imagine, the drop off after that is even greater.
The thing is, Jake Arrieta isn’t just hitting well for a pitcher. He’s hitting well. Period. That 134 wRC+ may have only come in about 40 plate appearances, but it indicated that he’s been about 34% better than the average hitter would have been during that stretch.
Of course, Arrieta likely won’t finish the season at the plate as strongly as he’s started it, but it’s nice to know that even as he struggles slightly on the mound, he can still add tremendous value elsewhere – perhaps more than any pitcher in the game.
Then again, tonight he’ll be facing one of the most entertaining pitcher-hitters, so …
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.