Who doesn’t love reunions? You know, when you run into someone unexpectedly that you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe it was a sudden parting of ways and it would be nice to catch up with that person. For the Orioles, that person could be Jake Arrieta.
I know, it sounds crazy. I get that. Arrieta was pretty bad as an Oriole, even out of the bullpen he had a myriad of issues that made life difficult for many an Oriole fan. That was largely the reason the club packaged him in a deal with Pedro Strop to Chicago for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.
Feldman pitched admirably for the O’s, though his final stats didn’t look so great all things considered. Clevenger proved to have some value, but the total 1.2 fWAR the O’s have gotten out of the deal wasn’t what they were hoping for. Then again, moving Strop and Arrieta, two seemingly lost causes wasn’t something O’s fans were sweating over.
Arrieta spent some time in the minors, but was recently recalled by Chicago and has been pitching pretty well since getting a shot back in the big league rotation. Over 9 starts Arrieta has a 1.98 ERA, coupled with a 2.31 FIP suggesting it’s not just good fortune that has Arrieta pitching well. After all, he is striking out 9.90 battters per nine innings, a career high. He’s also walking just 2.70 batters per nine, a career low. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that his 53% groundball rate is the best of his career as well.
Arrieta is pitching pretty well I’d say. Eno Sarris recently suggested that Arrieta’s adoption of the cutter is part of his success, as is his newly found ability to miss bats. He’s not throwing more strikes than ever before (actually fewer) but he’s getting more swings and also misses on pitches in the zone. His whiff rate is up to 9.3%, another career high.
The Cubs would probably like to hold on to Arrieta as he doesn’t start arbitration until 2015 and won’t be a free agent until 2018. That said, he can likely be had, and for a much less significant return than Jeff Samardzija. The final deals for Jason Hammel and Arrieta would likely look similar as Hammel has the track record, but Arrieta has the team control. If I had to pick one, I think I’d gamble on Arrieta one more time hoping that he can provide more value over the next 3.5 seasons than Hammel can in half of this one.
It’s only been nine starts and so it’s possible that Arrieta isn’t really this good. Maybe he is in fact just getting lucky. However, there’s a clear shift in approach and repertoire, and his cutter is likely helping him find the strikezone more than his running fastball and sinker did when he was with the Orioles.
A pitcher who misses bats, doesn’t walk guys, and gets a ton of groundballs? Hell, that sounds like a pretty good recipe for success. This would be especially true in front of the Orioles’ excellent infield defense. Whether the Orioles should be buyers at the deadline or not isn’t up to me, but if they do decide to go that route, perhaps this is the best solution.
It know it’s scary, but maybe it’s time to bring Jake home.
Jeff was the owner of the Orioles blog Warehouse Worthy, which focused on making advanced statistics a part of the conversation for the average fan. Outside of baseball, Jeff is a graduate of Loyola University where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Business Administration. The Maryland native currently works for an Advertising Agency in downtown Baltimore. Previously a contributor to Beyond the Boxscore, he joined Baseball Prospectus in September 2014. You can reach him at [email protected].