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The Best Option for Cubs Ace of the Future May Not Be Who You Think

Written by , Posted in General

Off the top of your head, name the Cubs’ starter with the most strikeouts per nine innings and best ERA? No, it’s not Jeff Samardzija. He also has the best ground ball rate among Cubs’ starters, and the second lowest walks per nine innings? Not Jason Hammel either. He has the lowest FIP and xFIP of any Cubs’ starter by more than half a run too. Travis Wood? Nope.

It’s Jake Arrieta, the pitcher who many groaned to see be the biggest piece the Cubs received in return for Scott Feldman early last July. Sure, Arrieta was a highly regarded prospect in the Orioles organization, where he was named a Top 100 prospect in both 2009 and 2010. But he never converted his plus stuff into results, and for the most part was unable to even convert it to consistent strikeouts, at least not without also giving up far too many walks.

Some adjustments to his pitches and pitch selection, though, have given the 2014 the Cubs a decent sized look at the dominance many thought Arrieta could achieve. Through his first nine starts, Arrieta sports a 1.98 ERA, 2.31 FIP, 2.66 xFIP, 9.90 K/9 and 53% ground ball rate, besting all other Cubs’ starters on those rates. On top of that, only Jason Hammel has allowed less walks per nine innings (1.87) than Arrieta (2.70).

The only negative to Arrieta’s 2014 is his average of less than 6 innings per start, compiling 50 innings in his 9 starts to date. The Cubs, however, heavily influenced that rate by being extremely cautious with Arrieta during his first three starts of the season after he missed the first month of the season due to minor shoulder soreness. After averaging under 4 and a half innings per start over those first three games, Arrieta averaged just over 6 innings in his most recent half dozen starts, throwing less than six innings only once.

The small sample size caution should be noted because Arrieta has only pitched about a quarter of a season’s worth of innings, but the peripheral statistics pointing to a meaningful possibility of sustainable success (strikeout rate and walk rate in particular) are among the first statistics to stabilize.

Quite simply, no one would have guessed Jake Arrieta would do what he is doing this season. Just as many people in the industry thought the Cubs should have converted Arrieta into a reliever. But if he can keep performing like this all season, the “will this pitcher be extended” talk won’t focus on Samardzija or Wood. Instead, the discussion will be if the Cubs should try to lock up Arrieta through his early 30s just as he enters arbitration.

Q: Who is the only Cub to steal at least 20 bases in a season at age 40 or above?

A: Click Here

  • Mark_from_Toronto

    And yet if you listened to the Reds broadcast of last night’s game (which I was forced to do as part of the MLB package on my TV) Arrieta was lumped in with Samardzija and Hammels as part of the Cubs “trade bait”

    • Doc Raker

      I like the Reds broadcast, I watched a few innings myself. I saw Rizzo’s home run on the outside hanging curve. The Reds broadcasters were very impressed with that home run off that pitch. I would think Len Kasper’s call of Rizzo’s home run went something like this, “John Legend Bobble Head night is tomorrow so come on out and get your bobble head. I love Legend’s silky smooth voice. Hey Rizzo just hit one into the bleachers, tie game 1-1.” DeShaies, “He took a high outside hanging curve and just crushed it the other way, I don’t even know how his bat reached that ball.” Len, “Do you think Rizzo is a John Legend fan? I met Legend backstage at a percussions conference. We almost went to Subway together but he said he regrettably had to get going.” DeShaie’s, “Your not going to see many guys hit that pitch out of the ballpark.” Len, “I should of stalked Legend when he left the conference, he is so cool.”

      • Noah_I
      • Doc Raker

        Looks like I gave DeShaie’s to much credit. Of course I half jest since the clip cut off DeShaie’s comment. How does one not comment on that pitch location?

      • Doug S.

        Funny stuff Doc. If Len went, I’d miss this.

      • Doc Raker

        But be entertained with good baseball talk during Cubs games if Len left.

      • Eddie Von White

        But then you wouldn’t have any entertaining material on here for us.

      • Doc Raker

        There’s always Seymour and CAPS

      • Kyle G

        LOL!! Hit the nail on the head with that one my friend!!

    • Noah_I

      Yeah, that’s the Reds broadcast taking a rumor that the Cubs are willing to listen to offers on Arrieta way too far. Of course the Cubs are listening to offers on Arrieta. They should be willing to listen to offers on everyone. If the Blue Jays were willing to offer Norris, Sanchez and astrolabe combined for Arrieta, those are 3 guys with potential to be top of rotation pitchers. No one is going to offer the Cubs as much or more than Arrieta is worth to them, though.

  • Mark_from_Toronto

    And yet if you listened to the Reds broadcast of last night’s game (which I was forced to do as part of the MLB package on my TV) Arrieta was lumped in with Samardzija and Hammels as part of the Cubs “trade bait”

    • Doc Raker

      I like the Reds broadcast, I watched a few innings myself. I saw Rizzo’s home run on the outside hanging curve. The Reds broadcasters were very impressed with that home run off that pitch. I would think Len Kasper’s call of Rizzo’s home run went something like this, “John Legend Bobble Head night is tomorrow so come on out and get your bobble head. I love Legend’s silky smooth voice. Hey Rizzo just hit one into the bleachers, tie game 1-1.” DeShaies, “He took a high outside hanging curve and just crushed it the other way, I don’t even know how his bat reached that ball.” Len, “Do you think Rizzo is a John Legend fan? I met Legend backstage at a percussions conference. We almost went to Subway together but he said he regrettably had to get going.” DeShaie’s, “Your not going to see many guys hit that pitch out of the ballpark.” Len, “I should of stalked Legend when he left the conference, he is so cool.”

      • Noah_I
      • Doc Raker

        Looks like I gave DeShaie’s to much credit. Of course I half jest since the clip cut off DeShaie’s comment. How does one not comment on that pitch location?

      • Doug S.

        Funny stuff Doc. If Len went, I’d miss this.

      • Doc Raker

        But be entertained with good baseball talk during Cubs games if Len left.

      • Eddie Von White

        But then you wouldn’t have any entertaining material on here for us.

      • Doc Raker

        There’s always Seymour and CAPS

      • Kyle G

        LOL!! Hit the nail on the head with that one my friend!!

    • Noah_I

      Yeah, that’s the Reds broadcast taking a rumor that the Cubs are willing to listen to offers on Arrieta way too far. Of course the Cubs are listening to offers on Arrieta. They should be willing to listen to offers on everyone. If the Blue Jays were willing to offer Norris, Sanchez and astrolabe combined for Arrieta, those are 3 guys with potential to be top of rotation pitchers. No one is going to offer the Cubs as much or more than Arrieta is worth to them, though.

  • Doug S.

    Ugh……I didn’t get to watch the game but the box score tells me Rondon gave up 5 ERs in the 9th and Rizzo was our only run. Do I need to know more?

    • PLCB3

      Barney got screwed out of an inside the park home run by the umpire.

    • Noah_I

      Aside from the grand slam, the hits Rondon gave up were the type of hits he’s had really bad luck on. Flares, grounders and pop ups finding holes. There was one walk to Votto after a long plate appearance, but Votto is the best in baseball at drawing walks. It’s actually kind of insane that Rondon’s been as good as he has been while dealing with a .347 BABIP.

  • Doug S.

    Ugh……I didn’t get to watch the game but the box score tells me Rondon gave up 5 ERs in the 9th and Rizzo was our only run. Do I need to know more?

    • AC0000000

      Barney got screwed out of an inside the park home run by the umpire.

    • Noah_I

      Aside from the grand slam, the hits Rondon gave up were the type of hits he’s had really bad luck on. Flares, grounders and pop ups finding holes. There was one walk to Votto after a long plate appearance, but Votto is the best in baseball at drawing walks. It’s actually kind of insane that Rondon’s been as good as he has been while dealing with a .347 BABIP.