Depending how this season pans out, Jake Arrieta could find himself being the Chicago Cubs’ number one starter at year’s end.
With Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel continuing to have All-Star caliber first halves, the possibility of Arrieta being the “last man standing” is a real possibility. But being the number one guy really isn’t as far-fetched as it may sound. Arrieta had been a top prospect within the Orioles organization, but control issues had made him available in the trade last year for Scott Feldman.
So far, the move has worked in his favor. Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio has helped to correct some of Arrieta’s control problems, as he has seen his walk rate drop from 12.7 last season, to 8.4 this year. The biggest concern at this point has been his pitch count. Arrieta has run up some high pitch totals, throwing 105 in only 4 2/3 innings two starts ago.
“[Efficiency is] probably the biggest thing that I’d harped on, Arrieta said.“For a lot of reasons, but most importantly to keep some of our bullpen arms out of the game until a little bit later on. h/t Sahadev Sharma.
Past versions of the Cubs’ pitching staff had been known for their number of strikeouts. And while they will still get their share, Bosio has worked to get his pitchers to throw two-seam fastballs, pitches with movement, to induce more ground balls. In the long run, this is a key aspect to keep Arrieta in games longer. As of now he boasts a 51.0 groundball rate, which would be his career-best.
While Samardzija and Hammel look to be key targets at the trade deadline, Arrieta is under team control for another three seasons after the 2014 campaign. That could put him square in the middle of the Cubs’ rebuilding efforts. That being said, he has to continue to improve his control to cement himself as a front-of-the-rotation starter.
“The command’s tightened up considerably over the last year or so,” Arrieta said. “I still would like to become even better in certain areas. Continue to improve the command of off-speed pitches and obviously the fastball. But, yeah, it’s getting better.”
But as of now it, appears that he and Bosio have a good plan in place. Arrieta has shown his potential, in Baltimore and as well as in Chicago. Barring some unforeseen changes, either Samardzija, Hammel or both, will be gone as of the trade deadline.
So essentially Arrieta is auditioning for a top spot in the Cubs’ rotation for next season.