Jake Arrieta Is The Real Ace For The Chicago Cubs

by Brendan Panikkar | Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
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Jake Arrieta is the true ace of the Chicago Cubs.

Jake Arrieta is the true ace of the Chicago Cubs.

When the Chicago Cubs signed lefty Jon Lester away from the Boston Red Sox, they were signing a proven number one starter, especially in October. Did the Cubs anticipate playing in October this season? Perhaps not, but they have a very comfortable 5.5 game lead on the San Francisco Giants for the 2nd wildcard. Given that they trail the Pittsburgh Pirates by 5.5 games for the 1st wildcard, and 10.5 back of the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals, it appears they will be heading to PNC Park for a one game playoff against the Pirates and it won’t (shouldn’t) be Jon Lester.

Who starts that game one playoff if you’re the Cubs? It’s the new ace of the Cubs, the new member of the elite pitching class in the MLB, Jake Arrieta. Arrieta has thrown 183.0 innings with a 17-6 record, 2.11 ERA (2.49 FIP, 2.73 xFIP), and a 5.4 fWAR. Arrieta has struck out 26.8% of batters while only walking 6.2%. Batters have only hit .194 against him and has a WHIP of 0.94. All of those numbers and more are the reason that Arrieta is the 4th best starting pitcher in the MLB only trailing Clayton KershawChris Sale, and Dallas Keuchel.

Jake Arrieta started his career with the Baltimore Orioles and always had the talent and stuff to be an ace. It just never came together for Arrieta during his time in Baltimore. He suffered through high walk rates, high batting averages against, and the home run ball bit him constantly. The change from who Arrieta was with the Orioles to who he is now with the Cubs is intriguing to look at. Did the change of scenery suddenly make it all click for Arrieta? Or is there a deeper reason for it?

In Baltimore, Arrieta threw his fastball well over 60% of the time, a slider around 15% of the time, a curveball and a changeup. With the Cubs, Arrieta has added the ability to cut and sink his fastball, throw his slider a lot more, changeup sporadically, and his curveball around the same rate as in Baltimore. The assortment of pitches for Arrieta has widened. It also helps that his velocity has steadily gone up almost every season. Arrieta’s slider now averages 90.2 MPH compared to 84.6 MPH in 2010 with Baltimore.

Jake Arrieta has gone on record to say that during his time with Baltimore, the Orioles kept on trying to change his mechanics constantly. He would constantly be working and tinkering with his stuff and mechanics that he just never really was able to focus on the simple approach of just focusing on throwing quality strikes. The Cubs stopped messing with his mechanics and had Arrieta just focus on throwing strikes. It clearly has worked in combination with the different approach to mixing his pitches and adding some movement with his fastball.

The new Jake Arrieta has gone from fringe major leaguer to a legitimate number one. The Cubs have the luxury of having two top of the rotation arms and really couldn’t go wrong starting Lester or Arrieta in the one game playoff. However, the choice to m and likely a lot of others now is quite simple. Jake Arrieta has to start the game in Pittsburgh should the rotation align to do so.

In 2015, Arrieta has thrown 81.0 innings at Wrigley Field sporting a 2.56 ERA, 80 strikeouts and a .203 BAA. On the road it is even better for Arrieta. He has thrown 102.0 innings on the road with a 1.76 ERA, 110 strikeouts, and a .187 BAA. Arrieta has been absolutely dominant on the road. Jon Lester has thrown 107.0 innings at Wrigley Field with a 3.53 ERA compared to a 3.70 ERA on the road. It’s a no brainer.

The Chicago Cubs were expecting Jon Lester to be the guy this season and into the future. However, where would the Cubs be without Jake Arrieta? Arrieta is the true number one with the Chicago Cubs. It has been an awfully memorable 2nd season for Arrieta. He has only gotten better from his great 2014 and added a no-hitter to his accolades just one start ago (August 30th). Jake Arrieta is the guy the Cubs should be throwing out on the mound at PNC Park in Pittsburgh for the wildcard game and is the latest pitcher to join the elite class of starters.

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Brendan Panikkar
About the Author

Brendan Panikkar is a graduate of Brock University's Sport Management program. Currently, he is the Vice-President, Customer Service at North Aware. He loves all sports but baseball and football take precedent over hockey and basketball. Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Raptors

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