MILWAUKEE – Jake Arrieta is a nonconformist, trolling opposing fans on Twitter, developing his own Pilates/nutrition program, posing naked for ESPN the Magazine, openly talking about his contract and apparently reading what’s written about him.
Or at least this article on FanGraphs – the website devoted to statistical analysis – caught his attention: “What on Earth Happened with Jake Arrieta?”
Arrieta speaks in full paragraphs, looks like he could be heading toward the zone that once made him a Cy Young Award winner and dismisses any questions or theories about his low-90s velocity readings.
“Everybody wants to talk about this,” Arrieta said after Sunday’s 7-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “There’s FanGraph articles. I don’t care about that.
“I know that kind of stuff can come and go from time to time. I had periods last year where I was at the same spot I am right now. I had one in June, near the All-Star break. It is what it is. I still have good feel for everything. Movement is really good. The command’s good.
“When the 95-to-97 comes back, it’s going to be tough for teams. And it still is.”
Manager Joe Maddon put it this way after watching Arrieta use 98 pitches to get through seven innings and finish with 10 strikeouts against only two walks: “I’d much rather see what we saw today than 94-95 (mph) all over the map, absolutely.”
Even during an All-Star year that saw him beat the Cleveland Indians twice in the World Series, Arrieta had too many of those unpredictable stretches where he lost command and that air of invincibility.
The Cubs staked Arrieta an early five-run lead and he didn’t allow another hit after Ryan Braun’s three-run homer in the third inning. Whatever the radar gun says, Arrieta is starting his salary drive at 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
“Where I’m at now in my career, I don’t worry about it, because I know that I’m smart enough to work around that,” Arrieta said. “The velocity’s still good enough to get it by guys and to do certain things in certain situations with it.
“If I’m commanding the ball on the inside part of the plate to left-handed hitters with some sink – like I was able to with a couple big strikeouts (where they’re) taking third strikes in – that’s a big deal.”
In Arrieta’s mind, he has an array of weapons, from a curveball he can drop at 75 or 82 mph, a cutter that can be effective in the right spot at 84 or 90 mph and a changeup that he’s still trying to sharpen.
Arrieta’s case for a long-term megadeal that could take him into his late 30s revolves around his baseball IQ, superior conditioning and relatively low pitching odometer.
“Some guys would call it like a ‘dead arm,’ but I feel good,” Arrieta said. “That’s all I’m worried about.”