Over the weekend, I wrote about Jake Arrieta’s recent remarks to the media. Summed up, it was a declaration of intent. He’s not back in Chicago for a farewell tour. He intends to pitch meaningful, impactful innings for the Cubs in 2021 – regardless of what you might think of him at this point in his career.
In just over a week, Arrieta will turn 35 and he’s coming off a trio of seasons in Philadelphia in which he labored through a myriad of injuries. Far from the guy he was when he won the NL Cy Young back in 2015, the right-hander believes returning to North Side will help him get back on track.
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"“But I have a lot in the tank,” he told MLB.com. “I have a lot to still accomplish in this game and I’m excited that it’s going to happen in this Cub uniform again.”"
I said it then and I’ll say it again. I’m not about to bet against a determined Jake Arrieta. That seems like a surefire way to end up with my foot in my mouth. But I’m also a big believer in data and metrics and what they can tell us about a player.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the preseason projections for Arrieta.
Cubs hoping Jake Arrieta can outperform his preseason projections
Last year, he made nine starts (44 1/3 innings) for the Phillies and worked to a 5.08 ERA and 4.66 FIP For this exercise, we’re going to use five different projections: Steamer, ZiPS, The Bat, ATC and FanGraphs DC. Here’s what they have to say:
- The Bat: 138 IP / 5.03 ERA / 5.06 FIP
- ATC: 123 IP / 4.83 ERA / 5.09 FIP
- FanGraphs DC: 138 IP / 4.95 ERA / 5.08 FIP
- Steamer: 135 IP / 5.11 ERA / 5.10 FIP
- ZiPS: 114.1 IP / 4.80 ERA / 5.06 FIP
So if we’re going with the law of averages here, Arrieta will throw right about 130 innings with a FIP in the 5.00 neighborhood. That hardly constitutes quality work. Steamer expects his ground ball rate to sharply decline (by more than four full percent) in 2021, as well, which could be disastrous at Wrigley Field.
I’m not saying it’s impossible for the former fifth-round pick to turn things around at this point in his career. I’m telling you that it’s an uphill battle – and one that projections don’t see playing out as we all hope it will.
While Arrieta and the Cubs might not intend this to be a nostalgia-riddled return, by the time the dog days set in, that might be all we have to hold on to when it comes to Arrieta’s time with the team.