2015 National League Cy Young Winner, Jake Arrieta
2015 National League Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta.
Jake Arrieta had a breakout season in 2015.
Jake Arrieta won the 2015 National League Cy Young award in what was some of the stiffest competition for the thing there ever was. The National League is resplendent with top notch starting pitchers, but Jake wasn't competing for the award, he was pitching to win for his team, and he did win. He won more games than did any other pitcher in the National League.
It was a sterling season for Jake. A breakout sort of season, where he showed what he could do, advancing far beyond all his previous career highs. Was it a fluke? Is he really that good? Can he come close to doing anything like that again?
The stuff is there. So Jake Arrieta is a bit of a late bloomer. He's 30 years old, but there isn't much in the way of Major League wear and tear on him. He's a large, imposing, and intimidating man with the power pitcher's build.
Jake Arrieta with the TCU Horned Frogs.
Jake Arrieta had an exciting and varied college and international baseball experience before going professional.
Born as Jacob Joseph Arrieta in 1986 in Farmington, Missouri - Jake would grow up instead in Plano, Texas. He attended Plano East Senior High School, and pitched well enough there to be drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 31st round. Jake opted instead to go to college.
He pitched well in college, well enough to be drafted again, this time by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 26th round. Jake still wasn't satisfied by this, and he would transfer from Weatherford Junior College to the elite Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, where he studied sports psychology. His sophomore year in college at TCU was eventful, Jake would lead college baseball in wins that year, with 14. At 20 years of age in 2006, Jake played international baseball for the United States national baseball team, and helped them win the World University Baseball Championship in Cuba. Jake then went on to play baseball in the Olympics in summer 2008, where Jake led the United States to victory over China.
Again, after time passed,Jake Arrieta's prospects in the Big League draft rose, he was drafted this time by a third team, the Baltimore Orioles, and higher still, in the fifth round. It was 2007, and the Orioles offered Jake a considerable sum of money to become a professional baseball player in their minor league system. Jake accepted. He posted power pitcher numbers in the Orioles farm system, striking out more than a batter per inning. The Orioles would be flexible with Jake, and allow him to participate in the summer Olympics in 2008.
Jake Arrieta with the Baltimore Orioles.
Jake Arrieta with the Baltimore Orioles.
In June of 2010 Jake would be called up and make his Major League debut with the Baltimore Orioles. He did quite well in his Big League debut. But for Jake Arrieta and his time with Baltimore's Orioles, he'd spend a lot of time being shipped back and forth, back and forth from triple A to the Major Leagues.
He'd post 20 wins with Baltimore, but he'd have 25 losses. When you look at the earned run average Jake posted with the Orioles, you realize it was Jake who was doing the most struggling, his earned run average was very poor, and was over 5 runs per game. With the Orioles, Jake was a thrower, he'd yet to become a pitcher. Maybe he hadn't matured just yet, or perhaps he clashed with team mates or the coaches. In any event, he was traded to the Chicago cubs, and history will show this was one of the better things to happen for Jake in his professional career.
What went wrong in Baltimore? Jake was prone to walk too many hitters, and the walks lead to big scoring innings by the opposing offense. After walking batters, Jake would lose his composure, and throw hit-able pitches in the strike zone to avoid another walk. Then there was bad luck. When you walk batters, infielders and outfielders both start getting antsy, bored, the negativity becomes contagious in the exact same way positivity can become contagious. While with the Orioles, Jake especially struggled getting left handed hitters out. So of course the opposing team would bat as many lefty hitters in a lineup against Jake as they could.
Jake Arrieta threw a no - hitter against the Dodgers in 2015.
Jake Arrieta, and his stunning turnaround with the Chicago Cubs.
The Baltimore Orioles had sunk a lot of money into Jake Arrieta. No doubt the fans in Baltimore, and the local media were rather negative about things when Jake failed to progress as hoped. He'd already reached 27 years of age, and that is supposed to be the age when a pitcher, or any athlete, really, comes into his prime. Jake continued to struggle.
Sometimes a change of location and the human environment makes all the difference. Something certainly clicked for Jake Arrieta in Chicago. With the Cubs, he's cut his earned run average in half from what it had been on the East coast. Suddenly Jake's name is tossed around in the same breath as Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
What happened? Well firstly and foremost and such, Jake's command of his fastball improved greatly. You throw a first pitch strike, and you're ahead in the count, this makes all things easier for the pitcher. Secondly, Jake developed in Chicago a more multi-faceted slider. Jake has something of a slider and cut fastball hybrid pitch. He also has learned to throw this slider or cutter or hybrid, or whatever it is, at different velocities. The slower version has a bigger break, but this is common with all breaking balls. Jake says he grips and throws his sliders the exact same way, the fast one and the slower one - but that he applies pressure on the ball with his fingers differently for the fast and slow ones. They appear to be two totally different pitches to the batter.
2010 Topps Update Baseball #US-251 Jake Arrieta Rookie Card - Near Mint to Mint
Jake Arrieta will be an ace for the foreseeable future.
Sometimes things just all come together for a person, and the go from the talented individual who everyone knew should be doing better - to the star they always knew was possible. This was what happened for Jake Arrieta. But I'd seen it before. Long ago in Texas we had a young man who had the kind of arm you could realistically associate with Nolan Ryan, or Roger Clemens. He had a comparable arm at the same time when those two legends were still pitching, still throwing 100 mile per hour fastballs all the time. His name was Bobby Witt, and he got every chance the Texas Rangers could give to a young man, but he just kept walking so many batters there was hardly ever a happy ending.
But what happened was when the Rangers got Nolan Ryan, Bobby Witt had someone to look at and emulate. Everyone could see he had the talent, including Witt, he watched Ryan's professionalism and put together a truly awesome year. We just wished it had happened sooner, and Witt went on to pitch for many more seasons in the Major Leagues. Jake Arrieta is still just 30 years old, and the minor tweaking he did last year with his pitching mechanics, his breaking balls, and his preparedness made a huge difference, turning him from one of the worst to one of the best. I'm willing to wager he keeps it up, and keeps the good thing he's got going in 2016, and beyond. The most apt comparison to Arrieta pitching today is Cleveland's Corey Kluber, a guy with a similar arm and repertoire of pitches, also a former Cy Young winner. I hope the best for him, and you should too. Thanks for reading.