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Jake Arrieta’s Start Yesterday Was Something He Hadn’t Done Since 2015 and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

The Little Boy and I are going to a monster truck show today. Just a couple dudes bein’ guys bein’ bros. Nah, but seriously, I think he’s really going to enjoy it – we get to go up to the trucks and see them up close and everything.

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  • Jake Arrieta had a really interesting start yesterday, with a few bad pitches early making it look like he had a rougher go of it than he did. Not only did he look really good by the middle innings and net a sizable 16 swinging strikes in the game, but it was his first no-walk performance in over a year (except for five innings against the Dodgers in the NLCS). It was also just his second eight+ strikeout game since July 19 (again, except for his second World Series start against the Indians – dude had a good postseason).
  • In recent Jake Arrieta memory, then, this start was something of a unicorn: the last time he gave up no walks and struck out at least eight was the Wild Card Game against the Pirates in 2015. Even during that incredible 2015 Cy Young season, Arrieta managed the feat only three times.
  • The start also marked the first time this season that Arrieta was hitting 95mph on the radar gun, and he finished up with an average fastball velocity right around 93mph, up a click or two from his first few starts. As we’ve said, it’s not entirely clear how much it actually matters if there is a tradeoff for command, but Joe Maddon explicitly said that he expected Arrieta’s velocity to tick up as the year went on (without the loss of command – or at least that’s the plan). Yesterday, despite the five runs, looks like a good example of that.
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

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  • It’s rare that I’ll note batting average as its own thing around here. In isolation, it’s not a very useful statistic, because it doesn’t tell you how much a guy is getting on base, or how much damage he’s doing when he gets a hit, but there are instances where it’s interesting to track (and, given that it is a huge component of OBP and SLG, it’s not as if batting average is meaningless). For example, Jason Heyward is now batting an even .300, which is tops on the Cubs and 21st in the NL. It’s a reminder that he’s striking the ball well, and it’s pushing up his slash line to a very solid level (especially with some loft this weekend, and the commensurate 60ish points in slugging he’s added). His .300/.354/.433 slash line (116 wRC+) is better than his career mark (.263/.346/.415, 111 wRC+).
  • Joe Maddon says a big part of the reason Heyward is hitting the ball harder right now is that he’s “less arms, more hands” in his swing (Cubs.com). I hadn’t thought about it that way, but you need only close your eyes and picture Heyward’s swing last year to immediately see the problem when you’re “too much arms” – the swing gets very slow and very long, and beating you with good velocity (a serious problem for Heyward last year) becomes all too easy.
  • If you’d not heard, Giants ace Madison Bumgarner threw the NL playoff races for an early loop by taking a dive off of a dirt bike and messing up his shoulder. The extent of the injury is not yet known, but he’s expected to be out for quite a while. No, the Giants are not likely to void his contract, even if the activity was prohibited (most player contracts have provisions that prohibit dangerous extracurricular activities, because obviously). With Bumgarner out perhaps up to two months, that NL West race – and the NL Wild Card race – gets all the more wide open. The Rockies and Diamondbacks are actually the early leaders in the division, which is shaping up to be the most competitive in the NL.

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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.

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