Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

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Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, and Jon Lester.

That’s who the Giants will have to go through in order to advance past the Cubs and into the NLCS. But like it’s written above, they’ll have to get through Arrieta first.

After dropping the first two games of the series in Chicago, the San Francisco Giants will host the Chicago Cubs at home with Jake Arrieta squaring up against playoff legend Madison Bumgarner.

And although Arrieta has had his fair share of struggles recently (his last start alone bumped his ERA from 2.85 to 3.10), this promises to be quite the marquee match-up – Arrieta and Bumgarner are two of the best, most athletic, and certainly most competitive pitchers in all of baseball.

Luis already took a look into Bumgarner earlier today, so let’s pivot back to the Cubs and see what Arrieta has in store for (what could be) the Giants’ final game of the year.

As we know, Arrieta’s final start of the season (5.0 IP, 7ER, 10H, 2BB, 4K) wasn’t exactly his finest moment, but he did look a bit better in the month that preceded it  (3.26 ERA over six starts). Even still, Arrieta strikes me as the type of pitcher and competitor who can dial things up when it matters most, and tonight’s potential clincher against one of baseball’s best postseason starters has “matters most” written all over it.

Check out what he had to say about Bumgarner, Javy Baez, his playoff experience, tonight’s start, and much more below:

Arrieta mentions a lot in that interview (it’s actually a really great one to listen to, if you have the time), but ends with his thoughts on pitching in front of an amped up crowd at AT&T Park … which got me thinking. In light of the unpredictability of any one postseason start (which may go double for the 2016 split version of Jake Arrieta), it might be as useful to take a look back at Arrieta’s history against the Giants from this season, rather than solely looking at his season as a whole.

So let’s do that!

Arrieta has actually made two starts against the Giants this year, one on the road (which he won) and one at home (which he lost).

Jake Arrieta v. Giants in 2016:

  • 5/20 at AT&T: 7.0 IP, 1 earned runs, 4 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
  • 9/03 at Wrigley: 6.0 IP, 2 earned runs, 4 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts

Although he lost the second game against the Giants at Wrigley Field, it wasn’t all too much worse than his win earlier in the year. At the highest level, it seems that Arrieta has had some success against the Giants in 2016, and it’s come mostly against the same eight guys.

With the exception of Matt Duffy (who was traded for Matt Moore – the Giants’ presumptive game 4 starter – at the deadline), the Giants have sent the following position players out against Arrieta both times:

1B – Brandon Belt (0-5, BB)
2B – Joe Panik (2-5, BB)
3B – Eduardo Nunez (1-2)
SS – Brandon Crawford (1-5, BB)
LF – Angel Pagan (3-6, 2B, K)
RF – Hunter Pence (0-6, 2K)
CF – Denard Span (0-6, 2K)
C – Buster Posey (0-6, K)

You can largely expect the Giants to send many of the same eight players out again tonight (his second start came against Bumgarner, so it might even be the same 1-9), and Arrieta has had success against some of their most impactful offensive contributors. Pence, Span, Belt, and Posey, for example, are a combined 0-23 with 5Ks and 1 walk against Arrieta in two starts this season. Of course, that’s great, but the prevailing wisdom is that hitters gain the advantage the more times they see a pitcher – even one of Arrieta’s caliber.

And then there’s the combined 7-18 (.388), from Panik, Nunez, Crawford, and Pagan that looks a bit stronger. Even still, you have to like that the all eight players have just one extra base hit in their combined 41 at-bats. Even when Arrieta struggles with his command, he’s difficult to square up, and that’s highlighted by the Giants’ lack of power numbers here. Still, let’s be clear: this is only two starts’ worth of data.

So where does this leave us?

Well, like his season as a whole, there are a number of important distinctions

  • Arrieta was better in the start at AT&T, but … he was better overall in the first half anyway,
  • He has found a good deal of success against some of the Giants’ starting position players, but several others have hit him well, and
  • Although he hasn’t given up much in the way of slugging, the combination of hits and walks in one short game (started by Bumgarner) might be enough for the Giants.

I still wouldn’t bet against Arrieta in a game like this, but he’ll certainly have his work cut out for him. Throw in Madison Bumgarner’s postseason heroism, and genuine drama should ensue.

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