Arrieta, Sale, and Kershaw as the Pitchers in Baseball and Other Bullets

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Arrieta, Sale, and Kershaw as the Pitchers in Baseball and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

jake arrieta cubs road blueThe Little Boy, we suspect, had some markers in his pocket that made their way into the wash. On the bright side, it wasn’t a huge load of clothes and it wasn’t the most important set of clothes. On the down side, it was a load of whites. So I’m wearing some unintentionally colorful socks today.

  • Because Chris Sale just had a fantastic start, because Jake Arrieta pitches tonight, and because both studs are pitchers associated with Chicago teams, comparisons and debates will occur (and even polls on Twitter). Each of Arrieta (Tribune) and Sale (Josh Liss) recently expressed admiration/respect for the other, and there’s no question that they are among the very best pitchers in baseball. To have them both leading Chicago teams is a lot of fun. I saw a lot of debate last night on Twitter about which of the two is the best pitcher in baseball right now, and with total respect to those two, I think that question fails to include the guy who is the obvious answer: Clayton Kershaw. To be sure, depending on where you place the cutoff for “right now,” I can make a strong argument that Arrieta is the guy. But if you’re going with “so far in 2016,” Arrieta and Sale have been excellent, but Kershaw is on another plane of existence.
  •  Consider:
    • Kershaw’s 3.4 WAR so far (through 9 starts – do some extrapolating on that and blow your own mind) leads baseball (and Sale) by 1.2 wins! That difference, alone, is a great pitcher. While Sale is in second at 2.2 WAR, Arrieta, in one fewer start, is at 1.6.
    • By ERA, Arrieta is lapping the field at 1.29 (Sale is third at 1.58, Kershaw is fourth at 1.67), but the more advanced metrics tell a completely different, and entirely gobsmacking story. While Arrieta (2.62/3.05) and Sale (2.81/3.44) have very good FIP/xFIP numbers, Kershaw’s are mind-boggling: 1.36 and 1.81. No one is within 40 points of him on either. (To be sure, we are becoming increasingly aware that elite pitchers do deserve credit for inducing weak contact consistently like Arrieta does, and FIP/xFIP – because they are expressly fielding-independent – do not give him credit. Still, the differences here are so extreme that I have to take note.)
    • The kicker for me is what Kershaw is doing when the ball does not come into play. Kershaw’s 88 strikeouts leads baseball by 12 (over that guy who just struck out 20 in a single start!), and he’s done it in 70 innings. Over those same 70 innings, he’s walked 4. FOUR! Kershaw’s 34.8% strikeout rate is utterly ridiculous, and trails only Jose Fernandez’s similarly ridiculous 35.2%. (Arrieta is 15th at 26.3%; Sale is 26th at 24.5%). Kershaw’s walk rate – I’d advise you to sit down – is 1.6%. That is a real number from a guy who is striking out as many batters as anyone in baseball, and is not getting hit by anyone despite being in the zone so much. (Sale, by the way, is also impressive at 4.0%, which is good for fourth; Arrieta, whom we know has had some control issues at times in the early going, is at 8.6%, which is 69th.)
  • Right now, the best overall pitcher in baseball is Clayton Kershaw. I think Arrieta and Sale are the clear next two, in a tier by themselves. But, hey – maybe Arrieta throws another no-hitter tonight and we re-evaluate tomorrow. I wouldn’t put it past him.
  • Anyone remember what happened between the Giants and Cubs in Spring Training, with Madison Bumgarner beefin’ about sign-stealing? I doubt we’ll see anything come of it in this series, especially because the Cubs very clearly were NOT stealing signs (in a dang Spring Training game).
  • Those Giants, by the way, are hot as all get-out, so they and the Cubs will enter into this series coming from different directions. I suppose it’s nice to see that, even in their coldest stretch of the year, the Cubs are still 5-5 in their last 10. But, still, four of those five losses came against the Padres and Brewers, so fan frustration is understandable. As long as the Cubs’ players don’t carry any of it with them out west, and just keep doing what they do, all will be well. These ugly stretches were always going to happen at some point, and it’s actually rather crazy that the Cubs didn’t get their first until mid-May.
  • By the way, on the offensive woes: it really wasn’t until yesterday’s game that I had my first tiny little pang of concern that there’s a genuine slump going on, and I mentioned it in the EBS. For the most part, before yesterday, I saw a whole lot of sequencing bad luck, BABIP bad luck, great defense, Gerrit Cole being Gerrit Cole, and small sample stuff that didn’t really tell me much more than “a lot of guys happen to not be getting good results all at the same time right now, and it sucks, but it’s not reflective of an issue.” Yesterday, however, I saw so many swings and misses on pitches that – to my #NotAScout eye – looked like totally crushable meatballs. It wasn’t just one guy, either. It was up and down the lineup, and against multiple Brewers pitchers. Hopefully that was just a one-day oddity, because, unlike sequencing and BABIP stuff, you can’t just assume swing-and-miss problems will turn themselves around on their own.
  • A lot of Cubs players are genuinely friends with each other, which is nice (ESPN).
  • One of the Mets’ minor league affiliates is allowing fans to vote on their new team name, and, although the Binghamton Boaty McBoatfaces is not an option, the other options are hilarious. And Stud Muffins is totally going to win.
  • I had no idea how much the Pirates’ offense was outperforming their pre-season projections (literally everyone except Andrew McCutchen), and how much of the Pirates’ pitching staff was underperforming those projections. Pretty interesting dichotomy explored here at FanGraphs.
  • I’m not sure I would ever encourage a pitcher to try and catch a comeback line drive with his bare pitching hand, but when a guy pulls it off, it’s pretty impressive.

META: My first full week using Snapchat is in the books, and I really think I’m liking it. I still don’t entirely get the nuances, I’m sure, but I like that it has an even more personal feel than the other ways we all connect electronically (and I try to keep things pretty personal already). Technology can be used to put up an anonymous barrier between people, but it can also be used to connect people in very real ways that would otherwise be entirely impossible. Maybe I’m just a romantic, but I think that’s pretty cool.

If you are like me and you just kept hearing about Snapchat so often that you finally decided you need to check it out, here are a few beginner’s guide-type things that can help you with the learning curve. Snapchat, on its own, is not intuitive.

And if you want to see what I’m doing on there, add me! Just click this link on your phone (or manually add bnbrett) and you’re good to go:

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Author: Brett Taylor

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