By: Alex Patt
After a three-year stint with the Phillies, former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta is coming back to the Windy City. It feels like a lifetime ago when Arrieta was wearing a Cubs uniform and mowing down opposing lineups every five days.
To sum his first tenure in Chicago:
128 starts – 2.73 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 793 Strikeouts, 244 Walks, 3.16 FIP in 803 IP
Cy Young (2015), All Star (2016), World Series champ (2016), 3.08 Postseason ERA in nine starts, Two No-hitters.
He came to Chicago as a nobody and left as a legend.
This was a guy who struggled so bad in Baltimore, and was packaged along with Pedro Strop in a trade to the Cubs in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. When he arrived to the Cubs organization he sported a career 4.0 BB/9 and 5.46 ERA. Theo Epstein clearly saw something in Arrieta, and the work the Cubs organization put into reshaping him saw remarkable results.
His return is bringing back so much nostalgia. I can remember being a college student making every effort to get back to my dorm room or senior year apartment on Harlem Avenue so I could watch his starts. Both his no-hitters happened my senior year and both times I listened to Pat Hughes call the final outs on the radio with my roommates. My night class first semester senior year was a web design course and I sat in that class with my computer watching him sink the Pirates in the Wild Card game instead of paying attention. Luckily my professor was supportive of us paying attention to the game! I remember sitting on the edge of my living room couch at home as I watched him dominate in both World Series starts he made against Cleveland. Oh, and remember that home run he hit off MadBum in the NLDS? Recalling all of this makes me want to fire up YouTube and watch the highlights again.
While I understand Arrieta is not the same pitcher he was in his prime, I am not going to let that spoil the reunion right now. Most people including myself know that Arrieta will likely not be more than a mid-rotation caliber starter going forward. A one-year deal is very low risk and it will be interesting to see if he has anything left.
Do not expect him throwing mid-90s anymore. He is now around 92 MPH on the fastball and has increased his use of changeups. From 2014-2016 he threw a change about 5% of the time and in his past two seasons with Philly he has thrown it about 18% of the time according to FanGraphs. He has gone from a strikeout pitcher to more of a contact pitcher. We saw him begin to morph into that in his final season as a Cub in 2017. If he can do it effectively, there is nothing necessarily wrong with that. Again, if he is effective. Coming back to the organization he saw by far the most success with might hopefully do him some good. It was pretty ugly in Philly, but he also dealt with some injuries there. Fresh start in a familiar place.
So now that Arrieta is in the mix, the Cubs rotation could look something like this:
If Arrieta can pitch to a 3.80-4.20 ERA and eat some innings I think people will take that. I would be shocked if he pitches any better than that…but who knows. All I do know is that I will be cheering him all the way like I did in the old days.
Welcome back, Jake Arrieta!