The reunion last year with Jake Arrieta was one of those things that didn’t offer much in the way of analytical support, but was nevertheless easy enough to support at the time. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, probably sometimes to my own detriment.
Which is to say, Arrieta’s return to the Chicago Cubs in 2021 was an absolute disaster. So much so that, by mid-August, he was no longer on a team that wasn’t exactly overflowing with starting pitching options. A brief attempt to right the ship with the desperate Padres also didn’t work out, and Arrieta finished the season with an unsightly 7.39 ERA over 98.2 innings.
To the surprise of no one, Arrieta did not sign this offseason, and while you kinda hate it when the game makes the retirement decision for a once-great player, it seems like that has happened for Arrieta, who only just turned 36.
He’s done with pro baseball:
“I haven’t signed the papers, but I’m done,” Arrieta said on the Pardon My Take podcast (h/t Phillies Nation). “It’s time for me to step away from the game. At some point, the uniform goes to somebody else and it’s just my time ….
“I was at a point where I was doing everything I possibly could to make things work [in 2021]. I came to this realization around the ’19 season, towards the end of the ’19 season, ‘Man, my body feels amazing, but the ‘ole whip, it just doesn’t rotate the way it used to.’ Whether I like it or not, that’s just where things were going. It got to a point where I just couldn’t feel my arm in space at release. It was most dramatic on my curveball and my changeup. I was hitting guys with changeups and those were two pitches where I can throw wherever I wanted. … I could not physically feel where my arm was at at release.”
Unfortunately, that’s how it looked, and with a complicated crossfire delivery like Arrieta’s, it was already hard enough to have top-tier command. When the arm also isn’t doing what you want it to do, well, that’s gonna be that.
Arrieta’s best years will always be remembered as synchronous with the Cubs’ great three-and-a-half-year run from 2014-17, including Arrieta’s 2015 NL Cy Young win, which came after one of the best seasons in Cubs pitching history.