Fans at Wrigley Field stood and roared as Jake Arrieta jogged out of the dugout Saturday afternoon to make his first start of 2021. The former Cy Young winner, All-Star and World Series champion pitched in a Chicago Cubs uniform at Wrigley Field for the first time since Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS. With tempered expectations, Arrieta delivered the type of start fans should expect going forward.
Cubs: Jake Arrieta’s final report card from Saturday.
The final line for Arrieta on Saturday: 6 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 5 K, 1 BB on 84 pitches. He was hitting 91-93 MPH on his fastball and was using the low-outside corner a lot. Some very solid movement on the two-seamer/sinker and the breaking stuff. A majority of his pitches this game were sinkers. The homeplate umpire was calling a generous corner on both sides, and Arrieta was able to take advantage of that.
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Breaking down his start a bit deeper. He recorded three of his five strikeouts on the curve, with one on the slider and one on a sinker. Three of them were called strikes. Despite the majority of pitches being sinkers, it was the breaking stuff that got the strikeouts. He also induced three groundouts, five lineouts and a few popups.
Far and away his worst inning was the first when he gave up a walk, two hits and a run and threw over 20 pitches. Nerves could certainly be a factor in that. He was very economical the rest of the way as he stayed under 90 pitches in six innings.
This is what we should expect from Arrieta
2015 Jake Arrieta would say this was not one of his better days…but everyone knows it is not 2015. The now 35-year-old righty is simply not the same guy he was a few years ago and his starts will look to be much more “grindy” like this one. Using location and selection to get outs and pitching to the defense. Not striking out double-digit batters with overpowering stuff and throwing complete-game shutouts.
A number of the outs Arrieta does get will be barreled up, as seen on Saturday. With the Cubs defense being as well-built as it is, they are set to be positioned well on batted balls. The big key is going to be his ability to locate and keep good movement on the pitches. Walks can be an issue with him, and that is where things can go haywire.
It was a concern early but he was able to settle in with his command. Today’s performance is pretty much what we can ask for from Arrieta going forward. This is a look at what an effective Arrieta will look like in 2021.
This is not unlike Jon Lester’s last two seasons with the Cubs, as he adjusted his game as age caught up to him. Not always pretty or dominant, but good enough to get the job done. One advantage Arrieta has is that he can still throw over 90 MPH.
The opponents for Arreita will improve as time goes on. Regardless of the opponent it felt like getting off to a good start in 2021 was really important for him. Pitching well in the first game while the wind is blowing out is always a big positive.