Jake Arrieta began 2016 with several starts that fit perfectly with the precedent established by his über-dominant, Cy Young-winning 2015. But those stopped a few months into the season, and he’s looked like a different pitcher since. From last year’s All-Star break to his most recent outing this week, several ticks are gone from his fastball and he’s sporting a 4.19 ERA with peripheral stats that aren’t much better.
But Arrieta is a free agent next year, and his agent Scott Boras is here to remind you not just that Arrieta has been elite or could be elite again but that he is currently elite. As he told ESPN when asked about the fact that Arrieta is now sitting 92 mph with his fastball, compared to the 95 mph he was flashing two years ago:
“The question becomes what’s [Clayton] Kershaw averaging? He’s throwing 92.5 mph. [Zack] Greinke is throwing 91.8 mph. [Max] Scherzer, when he was a free agent, was throwing 92 mph. We’re going to sit here and evaluate a player on a 60-day moment or a 10-start moment when he has three years of history. Don’t do it. That’s not fair. That’s not an evaluation.
“I wanted to bring this up because when you guys (reporters) talk about what an elite pitcher is, I want you to know Scherzer [in 2014] gave up seven runs, five runs, four runs, four runs and 10 runs, all before June struck. My point is he’s an elite pitcher. He did all that in his platform year. Jake is throwing at better levels than what Scherzer did.”
As noted by ESPN reporter Jesse Rogers, Kershaw and Greinke have seen considerably more minor drops in velo than Arrieta, while Scherzer has actually only seen his velocity increase a bit in the last few seasons. And while Arrieta has especially been struggling over the shorter and more recent windows that Boras mentions—basically, the time frame of this season—he has more than 60 days or 10 starts of worries here. Not to mention the fact that if you’re going to insist on only seeing the big picture with Arrieta, it’s hard to ignore the four middling seasons in Baltimore that predated his year and a half of domination in Chicago. You can reasonably argue that Arrieta transformed into a wholly different pitcher with the Cubs, making it unwise to use any of his time as an Oriole in a current evaluation, sure! But if you care at all about ideological consistency here, you also have to recognize that Arrieta has changed enough between 2015 and 2017 to merit distinction there.
“The reality of it is Jake has this history,” Boras went on to say. “He has a great history. These guys (elite pitchers) have not done it in one year. He did in ‘14, ‘15, ‘16 and now he’s doing it in ‘17.”
What Jake Arrieta has done in 2017 is a 4.92 ERA with 1.6 home runs per nine innings, more than he ever allowed as an Oriole.
But as Boras later told ESPN, “The teams go by the history and what you do in the postseason. What elite have done to get to where elite is.” And I truly cannot argue with that one, because I have no idea how it’s a real sentence.