Arrieta's Slider, Chapman's Results, Almora's Hand, and Other Bullets

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Arrieta’s Slider, Chapman’s Results, Almora’s Hand, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

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  • When I saw the headline to Jeff Sullivan’s latest piece at FanGraphs – “One of Baseball’s Best Pitches is Missing” – I didn’t have to click to know exactly which pitch the piece was going to be about. I did click, however, because I also knew it would be an interesting read. The pitch, of course, is Jake Arrieta’s slider (specifically, as we’ve discussed at times around here, the sharply-lateral-moving slider-cutter hybrid pitch, affectionally – and legit descriptively – dubbed the “slutter”).
  • It’s worth reading Sullivan’s take for the dramatic drop-off in usage and effectiveness of the pitch, though it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if you’ve been watching Arrieta this year. Sullivan, though, specifically notes something interesting about the pitch: because Arrieta’s release point is up slightly, the slider is winding up below the zone much more often this year than last year. Interestingly, Arrieta’s fastball is still among the best in the game (it’s *the* best pitch in all of baseball by pitch value), and is even better this year than last by pitch value. It’s possible, then, that some overall changes have made the fastball more effective at the expense of the slider (and, all things equal, you’d rather have a dominant fastball than a dominant breaking pitch). We can’t know for sure, but it’s certainly interesting to think about those relationships. It’s also interesting to think about to what extent Arrieta’s slider/cutter/slutter hasn’t been as effective this year precisely because his fastball command has been so up and down, making it much harder to play the breaking stuff off the hitters’ expectations.
  • And, of course, against all of that backdrop … Jake Arrieta still has a 2.62 ERA, has been worth 3.5 WAR, and is in the Cy Young conversation.
  • Also, the pitch value stuff got me clicking around, and I blew my own mind:

  • So far, Aroldis Chapman is fitting in well with the Cubs, and Jake Arrieta talks up how much work Chapman puts into getting ready each day (CSN). It’s an interesting thing that you don’t think about much: a dedicated closer essentially knows that, when his day with the team starts in the morning, he won’t see the field, at the earliest, until maybe 10 to 12 hours later.
  • If you were curious about Chapman’s numbers with the Cubs so far: 12.2 innings, 1.42 ERA, 0.54 FIP, 0.94 xFIP, 43.8% K rate, 6.3% BB rate. I’m not sure if it hasn’t felt like it because of the two blown games, but Chapman has been dominant.
  • Speaking of the bullpen, Pedro Strop is coming along exceedingly well, if you missed it earlier this morning.
  • You may recall that Albert Almora Jr. has been out for quite a while at Iowa with a thumb bruise, and recently went to see a hand specialist to make sure it wasn’t something more. Good news on that front:

  • If Almora does indeed return to the Iowa lineup this weekend, he could get in about 10 more AAA games before joining the big club for the rest of September. The Cubs are likely to clinch soon thereafter, which would give them the opportunity to rest more outfielders and give Almora additional starts in advance of the playoffs (and 2017, when he will get a good long look as a potential starter). Almora still has a chance of making the Cubs’ playoff roster, depending on how many pitchers they carry, and how much they want his impact defensive ability on the bench.
  • It wasn’t fun to see him terrorize the Cubs for so many years, but you’ve gotta respect how good Albert Pujols has been, and he just entered historic territory. Still, that contract with the Angels has been a disaster, and it’s fascinating to look back on his numbers in his final three years with the Cardinals, and then his time with the Angels, and see so clearly the decline that was coming.
  • With the Cardinals’ loss last night, by the way, the Cubs’ lead in the Central is up to a cool 14.0 games.
  • Various back-to-school-type-stuff is on sale at Amazon (probably not just today), so you can do some perusing if you still have needs.


Author: Brett Taylor

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