Jake Arrieta's performance this season hasn't overwhelmed or underwhelmed. It's just kind of ... whelmed.
Typically, when a player is awarded a contract paying $25 million per year, reactions from the fan base are strong in either direction, the way they've been with Carlos Santana.
But you don't see quite as much noise with Arrieta. Not as many fans are quick to deride his season or talk about how impressive he's been.
Arrieta did not pitch well or poorly Tuesday night in Game 2 of the Phillies' doubleheader against the Nationals. Again, he was just OK. Juan Soto doubled and homered off him, driving in three runs in the first four innings of what was eventually an excruciating 7-6 loss.
Because the Phils again had trouble scoring early, Gabe Kapler was forced to pinch-hit for Arrieta with Justin Bour with runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the fifth. Bour fouled out on one pitch, but the Phillies ended up scoring five times in the inning.
Up and down
Through 28 starts, Arrieta is 10-9 with a 3.66 ERA. If it seems like his ERA should be higher, it's because you've also watched him allow 17 unearned runs.
September will go a long way in determining how Arrieta's 2018 season is viewed. Why? Because he's had three good months and two bad months. If that becomes three and three, it's a disappointment. If it becomes four good, two bad, it's easier to live with.
Here are Arrieta's ERAs by month:
September: 5.11 (two starts)
Arrieta has obviously been the Phillies' second-most reliable starter this season. And in three combined starts against the two teams the Phillies have struggled most against — the Braves and Mets — he's allowed one run in 20 innings.
Bad vs. bad teams
Arrieta hasn't been able to conquer the Marlins, who he'll face again this weekend after posting a 4.91 ERA in four meetings.
He also struggled twice against the Padres, allowing 10 runs in 8⅓ innings to one of the majors' weakest offenses.
The Phillies went 3-3 in Arrieta's six starts against the Marlins and Padres. In that aspect, he's fallen short of expectations. Those are six games a contending team has no business splitting.
Arrieta had trouble locating on Tuesday night. At one point he had thrown just half of his 42 pitches for strikes. Because he has a crossfire delivery and is prone to yanking his sinker out of the strike zone when he's not locked in, these kinds of nights will happen.
It's something the Phillies have to be concerned with moving forward. While Arrieta's struck out 18 over his last two starts, his strikeout-to-walk ratio has declined each of the last four seasons. With 127 Ks and 52 walks, Arrieta is just above 2-to-1.
Just two seasons ago, he had 190 punchouts.
In the early part of the season, Arrieta got away with low strikeout totals because he was generating so many groundball double plays — 15 in his first 13 starts. Over his last 15 starts, he's induced just seven.
Maybe Arrieta comes back next season and performs like a No. 2 starter with an ERA closer to 3.00. But there are more than a few reasons to be concerned. His ERA has gotten worse every year since 2015. So has his WHIP. So has his opponents' batting average. So has his rate of soft contact allowed.
It's all about perspective, though. Arrieta hasn't performed like a $25 million man, yet at the same time, Cubs fans have complained all season about their team's choice to pay Yu Darvish instead of him. The free-agent market for starting pitchers this past offseason was not strong. This winter could be another story, with intriguing available lefties Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel and J.A. Happ.