What’s Wrong with Jake Arrieta?

Last night in Chicago Jake Arrieta had one of his worst games of the season going 6.1 innings and giving up 6 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks. It was, to most, somewhat of a surprise as he was coming off one of his best starts on August 23rd where he pitched 8 scoreless innings of 2 hit ball at San Diego. If you look at his overall line for the year you probably would not be too concerned as he has a 2.84 ERA, 1.048 WHIP with 16 wins on the season. I would argue though that there should be some concern.

It would be unfair to just say Arrieta is struggling because his season hasn’t been what it was in 2015, since that was an amazing season for him and he was the Cy Young winner in the National League. My concerns are more rooted in numbers that not everyone likely pays attention to.

Over Arrieta’s best two seasons of his career, so far, 2014 and 2015 he had a 2.08 ERA and a 0.915 WHP. He obviously isn’t living up to that, but ok we can’t expect that necessarily. In that same span of time he had a 2.31 FIP, 0.4 HR/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 9.4 K/9, this is where my concern falls. In 2016 his FIP is 1.16 higher at 3.47, his HR/9 has nearly doubled to 0.7, BB/9 is up to 3.5 and he is not striking batter out at the same clip with an 8.6 K/9. His struggles are very prominent in his last 11 starts where he has a 4.20 ERA, 34 walks and only 60 strikeouts in 75 innings. To make matters worse he has a record of 6-6 in those games.

So what is wrong with Jake Arrieta? According to BrooksBaseball.net it wouldn’t appear that he is injured as his velocity is right in line with his 2015 numbers. His pitch mix does appear to have changed. As you can see from the chart below he has begun to rely more heavily on his hard stuff versus his breaking pitches, throwing his fastballs 14% more of the time then he did in 2014 and 2015. As the 2016 season has progressed that has become an even bigger trend as he has thrown hard pitches 73.21% of the time in the month of August.

Arrieta 2014 thru 2016 pitch selection

My theory, however, is more than that. Last season Arrieta threw a career high 229.0 innings, 55.7 more innings than his previous high of 173.3 set in 2010. Since 2010 he has thrown 119.3 in 2011, 170.7 in 2012, 154.7 in 2013 and 176 innings in 2014. It is not that a jump to 229 innings is a death sentence for a pitcher, but that is a fairly large workload and many of those innings were in higher pressure situations than ever before. It is very likely with Arrieta already at 168.0 innings in 2016 that he is just wearing down from last year’s innings and because of that his stuff just isn’t as crisp.

Though we don’t know for sure what is wrong with Arrieta, what we do know is the Cubs have to find a way to get him back to his high end form soon as they are likely in the playoffs for 2016 and have a good shot of making it to the World Series if they can get him right.

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Need an SP, Look to Andrew Triggs

andrew triggsIt is almost crunch time for fantasy baseball leagues around the world. Many playoffs have started or will start soon and roto leagues are preparing for the home stretch. Now more than every you have to scour the waiver wire to find that diamond in the rough to keep your team in contention. If you are one of those unfortunate teams that recently lost a starting pitcher you’re probably looking at the available options thinking there has to be something better than these guys. Good news, there is.

One of the statistics that I pay close attention to in evaluating a starting pitcher is his FIP. For those of you who may not know FIP is Fielding Independent Pitching. Basically it is a measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness that doesn’t penalize or promote a pitcher based on the defense behind him. When evaluating a pitcher, I look at his FIP in relation to his ERA. If the FIP is significantly lower than his ERA, 1.0 or more, and his FIP is at a level that would be a better than usable ERA then you may have found an under-performer. Currently there are 68 starting pitchers who have a FIP that is at least 1.0 lower than their ERA. Many of these pitchers are still worthless as their FIP is in the 4.0+ range and well above league average or they are already owned in too many leagues to be available to add. There is one however that has a sub-4.0 FIP and is only owned in 4% of leagues. That pitcher is Oakland righty Andrew Triggs.

Triggs is 27 years old and made his MLB debut in April of this year, so if you never heard of him your probably not alone. If you just look at his basic stat line you likely won’t be impressed, 4.38 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and a 0-1 record for 2016. However, if you dig deeper there are some promising signs that could make him an intriguing add in deeper mixed leagues.

As a minor leaguer Triggs had a career 2.09 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 over five seasons. He has a low walk rate at 2.1 walks per nine, including his MLB innings, and a 0.2 HR/9. Currently in the majors he sports a 3.31 FIP which tells me he has been pitching well, but the Oakland defense has let him down on occasion. That assumption is backed up by his 8.4 K/9, 0.7 HR/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in his 49.1 innings with the big league club.
Being that the bulk of his time with the A’s this season have been in a relief role the stat line doesn’t tell the whole story. As a starter Triggs has only five earned runs in 19.2 innings. Most recently he pitched six, three hit, shutout innings against Cleveland. Over his past 12 games, which includes all five of his starts and a total of 31.1 innings he has a 2.30 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and 28 strikeouts to 8 walks. Even better in his last three appearances, all since he became a regular part of the rotation, he has a 2.30 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 12 Ks to 1 BB.

Is Triggs and ace? No. He is, however, a great late season add to help you maintain your lead or gain ground on your competition if you are in need of a starting pitcher because you lost John Lackey, Steven Matz or Stephen Strasburg.