The Chicago Cubs haven’t seen the same Jake Arrieta as last year–but is that even possible? So is this merely a slump?
Everyone’s seen this situation play out on T.V. or in reality. You make friends with a really attractive person, then suddenly start dating. When you go out people stare, secretly praying for you to break up. But, it never happens. There’s real chemistry between you two, and you start thinking the other is one-of-a-kind. And neither one of you is questioning it. That’s like how Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) has been with Chicago Cubs fans since he won the Cy Young.
We can assume who is who in this hypothetical relationship. Three seasons after acquiring him from Baltimore, no one is doubting the chemistry. Like any couple, however, spats happen.
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“I’ve made it clear I like Chicago,” Arrieta told the Chicago Tribune in May. “Everyone knows that and if I had it my way, I’d stay here. But that’s one side of the story.”
Arrieta’s also made it clear that he won’t accept less money in order to avoid the open market.
“You want to be paid in respect to how your peers are paid.” Arrieta said.
In 2015, the year Arrieta won the Cy Young, he was unhittable. Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA in a career-high 229 innings and recorded the second-highest WAR among qualified starters (7.3). Only Clayton Kershaw was ranked higher among starters, even though Arrieta outpitched him in nearly every statistical category.
One factor that Kershaw works to his advantage is his durability. Kershaw made 33 starts in three consecutive seasons, winning the Cy Young in two of them. Arrieta, on the other hand, has only made 33 starts in one season, though he also won the Cy Young that year.
After Kershaw won his third Cy Young in four seasons, the Dodgers rewarded his efforts with a 7-year $215 Million contract extension. Even Washington’s Max Scherzer—the player Arrieta draws the most comparison to—signed a $210 Million extension at 30 years-old.
Arrieta, 30, seems primed to see a similar payday once Chicago resigns him, so long as the front office doesn’t see him as trending in the wrong direction.
This year, Cubs fans and writers have labeled Arrieta’s season as a slump because his stats rank him outside the top-10 for starters. He recorded his highest BB/9 (3.5) and K/9 (8.7) since 2013, and a career high in wild pitches (16) and walks (76). In 197.1 innings, Arrieta gave up 72 runs on 138 hits, even though he still recorded 190 strike outs.
A lot of analysts point to his +1.33 spike in ERA from 2015 as evidence of Arrieta’s regression. This stance fails to appreciate the historic season Arrieta had and Chicago’s acknowledgement of those feats.
Arrieta had a microscopic .075 ERA after the All-Star break and finished the season with a 0.85 WHIP, good enough to be in the top-25 seasons of all time. After the season, Chicago rewarded Arrieta with a 1-year $10.7 Million contract to avoid arbitration, the largest such contract awarded to a pitcher with four years of service time.
Chicago had a special season this year, and Arrieta certainly contributed to it. He may not have had another record-breaking season, but that doesn’t mean Chicago shouldn’t offer Arrieta a hefty contract.
Like the old adage says: don’t try to fix what’s not broken.