Now that’s what I’m talking about, right?
Jake Arrieta has gone through multiple periods of wildness this season, where he temporarily losses his control and pays the price with dampened production and efficiency. Last night was not one of those nights.
After throwing 8.0 strong innings against the San Diego Padres, Arrieta walked away with the win (his 16th), having given up no earned runs on just two hits and three walks, against six strikeouts.
It took him just 99 pitches to get that far, too, which is notable and encouraging given his recent inability to stay efficient, even when he was being productive. Last night was the Jake Arrieta of old, and it was wonderful to watch from start to finish.
But before we dive into his start and season, let’s relive last night with some video of his performance:
Although we don’t really want to recognize it’s statistical (ir)relevance, it’s worth pointing out that Jake Arrieta now has an NL-Leading 16 wins. The number may not be important to us or useful in projecting his abilities going forward, but it tends to have meaning with the players and represents a nice accolade. So, that’s swell.
As for a more specific, telling analysis of his start and season, let’s dig a little deeper into last night. Arrieta threw a total of 99 pitches against the Padres yesterday, 59 of which fell for strikes. Of those 59 strikes, 11 came from swings and misses, with the majority of those coming from his two-seamer. Arrieta routinely worked around 94 MPH with his fastball (reaching up to 95.4 MPH at the top end), but added a fair number of sliders and curveballs, as well as a handful of change-ups. Due to a number of double plays and a Willson Contreras pick-off, Arrieta faced just one more than the minimum through his 8.0 innings pitched.
According to Arrieta, his ability to effectively command and utilize a wide repertoire of pitches early on is what allowed him to be so productive last night. He says that he’s at his very best when he mixes everything in from the beginning, as opposed to saving some of his other pitches for later on in the game. It’s an interesting strategy, given that we know many pitchers prefer to do the exact opposite, but if it works for Arrieta, then it works for me. Perhaps using all of one’s weapons early on can make a pitcher less predictable later in the outing.
You just have to, you know, make it to that point; last night, Jake did.
Although, he wanted to finish things up.
“I was mad at Joe for taking me out,” Arrieta said to reporters at the game, including Cubs.com. “At the same time, he said, ‘Hey, remember last year? Let’s conserve some things for October and the end of September.’ That’s our gameplan. We want to be as strong and as dominant as we can be.” Maddon was right. Arrieta could have quite capably finished that game (or at least given it a shot), but it was much better to end on a high-note and save some bullets for October, especially given the inconsistency of his recent outings.
Luckily, the bullpen finished things off for Arrieta, and he was able to improve upon his season numbers. Check out where he ranks in a variety of statistics among other qualified starting pitchers throughout the league:
- Innings: 161.2 (11th)
- ERA: 2.62 (4th)
- FIP: 3.30 (9th)
- xFIP: 3.65 (20th)
- K-Rate: 24.5% (17th)
- BB-Rate: 9.6% (72nd) – yikes
- K/BB: 2.55 (55th)
- AVG: .183 (1st) – ahh, much better.
- Soft Contact: 21.8% (8th)
- Hard Contact: 25.6% (5th)
So, by nearly every single measure (other than the walks/command), Jake Arrieta is at the very top of his game. He’s limiting hard contact as good as anyone in baseball and inducing a ton of soft stuff, too, which (when combined with the best defense in baseball) has allowed him to keep batters at just a baseball leading .183 average.
He’s even still striking plenty of batters out. Arrieta really just needs to harness his control. Unfortunately, that tends to have a cascading effects on any one individual start – when you’re wild early, you’ll lose the close calls later. But he’s managed to be very productive, despite that, and even last night he showed that command shakiness early in a start can still become much more precise later on.
We hold Arrieta to a very high standard, but that’s mostly because he, himself set that standard, both by frequently achieving it, and by holding himself to it. Sure, he’s had some struggles this season, but remains very good overall. Hopefully, he can continue to show the type of command and control he displayed last night in San Diego and carry that right into the playoffs. If the Cubs are going to go deep this year, they’ll need him at the top of his game.