You know, we talk an awful lot about the “juiced ball” era we’ve found ourselves in, but I’m not sure we’ve done enough to recalibrate our expectations on the pitching side of the equation.
For example, look at the league average ERAs over the past three seasons and through August 7th of this year:
2014: 3.74 ERA
2015: 3.96 ERA
2016: 4.19 ERA
2017: 4.34 ERA
There’s been over a half-run explosion in the league average ERA from 2014 through today. And I bring that up now, of course, to really drive home how impressive Jake Arrieta (3.83 ERA) has been this season.
Indeed, after last night’s 6.1 inning effort against the Giants, Arrieta has brought his season ERA down to 3.83, which is 30th best in MLB, 17th best in the National League, and the best on the Cubs. His 4.10 FIP, through yesterday’s start, ranks 32nd in all of baseball and just 15th in the National League!
And this is far from the only way he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year:
Strikeout Rate: 22.9% (26th in MLB)
Walk Rate: 7.5% (37th)
K/BB Ratio: 3.07 (26th)
GB Rate: 45.8% (30th)
Soft Contact: 21.1% (18th)
Hard Contact: 28.1% (7th)
By just about every single measure you’d like to see, Jake Arrieta has ranked among the leagues top 30 starting pitchers. That’s absolutely brilliant in it’s own right, and is especially impressive considering that he’s done all of that with an elevated BABIP and a depressed strand rate. In other words, according to his career baselines, Arrieta is pitching like one of the top 30 pitchers in baseball despite a fair amount of bad luck.
And last night’s start (6.1 IP, 9H, 2ER, 0BB, 5Ks) was just the cherry on top an even more impressive recent stretch.
Since those mechanical adjustments back on May 21, Arrieta has finished at least 6.0 full innings in 11 of his 15 starts (he was one out away from a 12th). And if you throw away the anomalous start against the Nationals (the one where Miguel Montero allowed seven stolen bases and the Nationals had about 30 infield singles), this stretch gets all the more impressive.
But let’s leave that game in there for now, because even with it, Arrieta has looked fantastic. For example, his 3.01 ERA during that stretch would be the eighth best mark in baseball this year, and he’s kept it up for a rather significant number of games/innings. On top of that, Arrieta’s groundball rate is up to 48.8%, and opposing batters are hitting just .205 off him during that stretch. And, if you can believe it, he’s getting even less hard contact (26.2%) than he already is for the season (which, as we’ve seen, is already near the top of the class).
So, essentially, Arrieta has been one of the best pitchers in baseball both recently and, now, for the season as a whole. I know the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 didn’t inspire much confidence, but it’s time to recalibrate what we think we know about 2017 Jake Arrieta.
The dude has been good, and consistently so.