After waiting a while to actually find a home this past winter with the Philadelphia Phillies, starting pitcher Jake Arrieta watched his 2018 campaign get off to a somewhat slow start.
His debut with the club on April 8th against the Miami Marlins lasted just 4 innings, and although he beat the Tampa Bay Rays in his second start with 6.2 solid frames, he only recorded 1 strikeout.
Based off what he just did against the Pittsburgh Pirates Thursday night, we can say that Arrieta has “officially” arrived in the City of Brotherly Love. The right-hander was dominant, allowing just 1 hit and 2 walks on 10 strikeouts in 7 shutout innings.
This kind of performance hasn’t happened for a Philly pitcher in nearly three years, but Arrieta is very familiar with it.
Well, now that’s interesting. It’s almost like he was destined to eventually end up with the Phillies. And just in case you were wondering, Arrieta’s performance against Cole Hamels in that game wasn’t terrible — he allowed 3 runs on 6 hits, 3 walks, and 8 strikeouts in 6 innings.
However, this was before he went on that insane second-half run that finished with a trip to the National League Championship Series and a Cy Young award.
Upon fast-forwarding back to present day, the cumulative body of work for Arrieta has looked encouraging through his first 17.2 frames as a Phillie. He’s been a rather productive pitcher since that dominant 2015 season, but there have been some red flags worth keeping an eye on, too.
The sample size is obviously small, but he’s looked great through three starts. His 23.2% strikeout rate and 8.7% walk rate are basically in line with what he’s done recently for the Chicago Cubs. There have been more drastic improvements in other areas that Philly certainly hopes is sustainable to a degree, though.
Here’s a quick look at how his current batted-ball profile compares to his final two seasons in the Windy City.
Since his ground-ball rate is one of the things that’s took a significant leap forward during his 2015 breakout, it’s encouraging to see it back on the upswing for now. And even though he’s not generating a ton of soft contact at the moment, he’s limited hard contact due to an increased chase rate.
Opposing hitters are chasing 35.8% of Arrieta’s pitches out of the strike zone (27.9% in ’17). They’re also making contact on these pitches 81.6% of the time (67.0% in ’17), helping explain why that hard-hit rate is so low right now.
What’s also interesting is that the veteran righty has accomplished this while throwing his fastball at a 68.3% rate, which would be a single-season career high if sustained. His sinker has been a huge help in spiking that ground-ball rate, too — after watching opposing hitters posted a 102 wRC+ and 49.6% ground-ball rate against the pitch in 2017, those numbers are currently at 64 and 71.0%, respectively, this season.
As with anything we’ve been talking about over the past month, there’s still plenty of work to be done. With that in mind, though, this start to Arrieta’s 2018 season at least shows us there’s potential for him to remain a dominant force on the mound.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.