Cy Young Candidate Hits a Rough Patch
Jake Arrieta has seemingly lost his histoical 2nd half form. (Flickr : Al Case)
The numbers from Jake Arrieta's 2015 season speak for themselves, a 22-6 record, 1.77 ERA, 0.865 WHIP and 236 strikeouts. Look at just the numbers the Chicago Cub pitcher posted in the second half of the season and there's an argument to be made he had the greatest second half in major league baseball history.
So it was not surprising when Arrieta tossed a complete game shutout in the NL Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. What came next was surprising.
In game three of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals Arrieta proved he is human allowing four runs in five and two thirds innings of work. The Cubs still won the game despite an unexpected showing from their ace so perhaps the game would be just a small blip on Arrieta's postseason.
But, in game two of the NLCS against the New York Mets on Sunday night Arrieta struggled again. He gave up three runs in the first inning and in total went five innings allowing four runs. This time Chicago lost the game 4-1 and Arrieta was pinned with his first loss since July.
The loss to New York put the Cubs in a 0-2 deficit in the best of seven series. They now head home to Chicago hoping to get something going behind Kyle Hendricks Tuesday night. If the Cubs do in fact right the ship at Wrigley Field they still have the question to answer going forward of whether Arrieta's two challenging outings were just flukes or something more.
Arrieta threw 229 innings in the regular season and is closing in on 250 when you include the postseason. Prior to this year, the most innings Arrieta had thrown in the majors was a half-inning shy of 157 last season.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon said after Arrieta’s game two start that he does not know for sure, but the innings may be taking their toll on Arrieta. What he did know was that if you asked Arrieta if the workload was taking his toll the righty would say no. Maddon also could pinpoint the same aspect of Arrieta’s game that has changed as others are.
“In the game there, if the gun was correct on the field, he might have been down a mile an hour or two, that’s what I saw,” Maddon said. “Overall and when that happens, the breaker, the commitment to the breaking ball is not as definite from the hitter’s perspective, because they’re able to see everything better.”
On Saturday before game one of the series, Arrieta mentioned that he has been working for a while to be able to pitch deep into October without consequence.
“Over the course of the off-season and Spring Training, trying to develop the ability to maintain the durability throughout a long season, and obviously we intend to play in October every year,” Arrieta said. “So I think that’s something I just take into consideration throughout the training process, trying to prepare your body as best as possible.”
Maddon said that from where he was watching Arrieta’s delivery looked good and he was not laboring. Arrieta said that he felt fine physically following the game. He realized that his high end velocity was missing and as a result said he threw his change-up often.
“Really the biggest part of the night was the two-run homer (hit by Daniel Murphy in the first inning),” Arrieta said. “Murphy hit a pretty good pitch as he has been doing all postseason. So the mistake to him was really the turning point in the game, from there we couldn’t get anything going.”
It was a cold night in New York on Sunday for game two, although you would not have guessed looking at Arrieta wearing just his short sleeve jersey and no long sleeves under it. Was it the cold that affected his game? Arrieta did not say anything to his manager about it and Maddon did not gauge that it bothered him.
If the Cubs can keep the Mets from winning two games in Chicago, Arrieta would be in line to start game six at Citi Field. If the Cubs want to make it to their first World Series since the 1940’s they will need the Jake Arrieta who had a 0.75 ERA in the second half of the season.