Happy Jake Arrieta Day: No-Hitter Fun, Extension Talks, and Lame Steroid Chatter

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Happy Jake Arrieta Day: No-Hitter Fun, Extension Talks, and Lame Steroid Chatter

Chicago Cubs

jake arrieta cubs road blueJust yesterday, we checked in on a series of Jake Arrieta bits, after learning that he had won his fourth Player of the Week honors on the strength of his no-hitter in Cincinnati.

Indeed, there was a lot to talk about – bullpen superstition, his former career as a Baltimore Oriole, defensive metrics saving the no-hitter and his ability to induce weak contact – but not a day later, we have much, much more to discuss.

And, hey, it’s Jake Arrieta Day anyway, so why not double down on the content? Round two, let’s go.

  • At USA Today, Bob Nightengale and Arrieta, himself, discuss the supposed rumors around baseball that Arrieta is and/or has been taking PEDs in order to achieve the level of greatness he has over the past two years. While Nightengale (and even I) can *understand* that seeing someone go from discarded by the Orioles to Cy Young with the Cubs is unusual, making a PED claim on that basis, alone, is so short-sighted and ignorant of most of the facts. Arrieta agrees: “I’ll see on Twitter, ‘My close source revealed to me he’s on steroids.’ Well, the 10 tests I take a year say otherwise. I eat plants. I eat lean meat. I work out. And I do things the right way.” And if you’ve followed Arrieta at all, you’d know that to be the case. [Brett: Arrieta is fitness and nutritional freak, and a famously hard worker. More than that, his breakout with the Cubs was attended by significant changes in his pitch mix and mechanics, extensively documented over the past few years.]
  • But it’s not just random boneheads on Twitter, apparently, speculating about PEDs. It’s actual MLB players, too. “I’ve heard players, and I’m talking about some of the best players in the league,’’ Arrieta told USA TODAY Sports, “question whether I’ve taken steroids or not. Some of the things I hear are pretty funny, and some people are idiots, frankly.” But Arrieta is smart and rightly shrugs off the baseless accusations. According to Cubs.com, no one has ever said anything about steroids directly to Arrieta’s face, he adds, “Nobody would be stupid enough to do that.” I certainly would not. I don’t even know how Joe Maddon musters up the courage to go take Arrieta out of a ballgame.
  • Speaking of the Cubs skipper, Joe Maddon chimed in and challenged anyone in baseball to participate in Arrieta’s workout regimen for just two days, to see how well they perform and how good they look. Steroids have nothing to do with his success. Instead, according to Maddon, Arrieta’s command of his pitches and overwhelming confidence is what spring boarded him into the national spotlight.
  • At the Athletic, Sahadev Sharma adds more on Arrieta, his diet, his past and why/how illogical it is to suggest that Arrieta has used any performance enhancing drugs of any kind at any point in his career. Arrieta adds that he’s always been in as good of shape and health as he is now, including the velocity on all of his pitches. While that isn’t in and of itself an argument why he hasn’t been using steroids, it certainly does strengthen his case.
  • Which is to say, there is no case, no trial and no legitimate accusation. I feel a little silly even bringing this to your attention, because I find it to be so unfounded, but the news is the news, and this is the news, because Arrieta actually spoke about it. But it won’t be for long, and soon enough this story will die down and Arrieta will continue dominating his opponents at a historic pace.
  • (UPDATE: Arrieta just needled ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith for getting into some unfair PED allegation slinging. It was quite good.)
  • And eventually, the story will shift back towards whether or not he’ll decide to extend his contract with the Cubs or become a free agent for the first time in his career. Speaking of which: until this season, Arrieta’s big league gross has been under $6 million. Of course, after a Cy Young season in 2015, the Cubs gave him a big raise up to $10.7 million, in order to avoid arbitration. Still, Arrieta is going to finish his career earning far, far more than the $17.5ish million dollars he’s earned thus far – the question is, will that come from someone other than the Cubs?
  • Back at USA Today, Arrieta indicates that he is looking for something closer to the six or seven-year deals other 30-something Cy Young award winners have been receiving in the past few years. Indeed, over the offseason, the Cubs were willing to entertain a 3-4 year extension, but were not willing to match the 7 years Arrieta and agent Scott Boras were reportedly seeking. [Brett: We’ve dug in at length on what an appropriate extension for Arrieta could look like, and how it’s tough to find a place that makes sense for both the Cubs and for Arrieta. One thing to note: if the Cubs were willing to add 3-4 years on top of the 2 remaining years of team control, and if the 7 years Boras was suggesting was the total length of the extension, then the two sides would actually have been only one or two years apart.]
  • Working in Arrieta’s favor, Nightengale points out, is the relatively low mileage on Arrieta’s arm (and, of course, the great shape he’s in). By the time Arrieta is a free agent, he will have likely thrown roughly 1,200 Major League innings in his career (due to a slow start in Baltimore). Greinke, by comparison had over 2,000 innings logged on his arm when he signed his $200+ million mega deal this offseason. Although Jake sounds genuinely interested in staying in Chicago, he has already admitted to being perfectly open to other teams and cities if it comes to that (as well he should be). We’ll see where this goes over the next couple years. (For more on an Arrieta extension, check out Nightengale’s piece here.)
  • At FiveThirtyEight, as part of a larger projection project, Jay Boice writes about individual pitcher peaks and, as you can imagine, Arrieta’s peak over the last year has thrust him into the historic spotlight. Indeed, his 68.3 pitcher score obtained at his peak is just ahead of Sandy Koufax (and many, many other historically good pitchers). As far as current pitchers go, Arrieta is only just behind Clayton Kershaw, but is ahead of Zack Greinke, and other great pitchers like David Price and Chris Sale.
  • Lastly, some great images and notes from Arrieta’s no-hitter (glad to see David Ross got home plate from the Reds):

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami