Chicago Cubs: Evaluating Jake Arrieta’s first 10 starts of 2021

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs / Jake Arrieta
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Chicago Cubs: Jake Arrieta’s performance 10 starts in has been a mixed bag

Numbers-wise in 10 starts, Arrieta carries a 4.41 ERA, 1.4 WHIP, 5.16 FIP, 4.95 xFIP, 7.24 K/9, 3.53 BB/9, and 44.4 percent hard-hit rate in 51 innings. He is averaging about 5.1 innings per start, going six innings four times and never making it to the seventh.

Looking at the contact his pitches are generating, his 44.4 percent Hard Hit% (Statcast) and barrels percentage (9.4 percent) are both higher than normal and his groundball rate is down (39.4 percent) vs. his career rate of 48.6 percent. His flyball percentage is up (38.8) against his career 30.5%. Yes, this is a small sample size compared to a normal season of 25-30 starts, though it is worth noting that last year he made nine starts and his barrels percentage was 7.8 percent, Hard Hit% at 38.3 percent and groundball rate at 51.8 percent as he posted a 5.08 ERA, 4.66 FIP and 4.38 xFIP.

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Arrieta’s strikeout and walks are about where one would probably expect him to be. His command is not as sharp as it was in his best days and he will miss some bats with pitch movement, but not a ton. The main thing is he is getting hit harder than desired and not getting enough on the ground. He has already given up nine home runs, which is not surprising considering the harder contact against and more flyballs.

It was hoped that he could use his sinker, which he uses instead of traditional four-seam fastballs, and offspeed pitches to get balls pounded on the ground. His velocity on the sinker is averaging around 91 MPH, so movement is going to be his best bet at getting outs as opposed to overpowering guys. Statcast shows that Arrieta is 78th in vertical movement % Sink vs. Average (3) among qualified pitchers.

Another thing is that he is not using the changeup very much, only about six percent of the time, compared to his Phillies years where he threw them from 11-18 percent of the time. He has been using the curveball more, which according to FanGraphs pitch value is his most valuable pitch this year. It is possible he is not using the changeup now because the pitch value has not been there for that pitch in years past.

To sum up Arrieta’s first 10 starts as simply as possible…”meh”. He’s had some solid starts to begin the year but some regression from the 2.57 ERA after his first five starts was inevitable.