There are late bloomers in MLB and then there’s Jake Arrieta. We all know the story by now (if you don’t, not sure where you’ve been hiding), he was a busted prospect with the Orioles, they dealt him to the Cubs for a couple of bats and some chewing gum and a year and a half later he turns into the greatest pitcher in the world.
He starts against the Pirates in the wildcard game last October and promptly fires a complete game shutout. His numbers against the Pirates are staggering—6-1 with a 1.68 ERA in nine starts. His numbers the past two seasons are just ridiculously good. And so far this season, he’s off to a 5-0 start with a 1.00 ERA. So much for pitchers slow out of the gate in cold April, right? I’ve never seen a performance with a pitcher turning it around so quickly and becoming an absolute stud at age 29 before in my life. It’s hard to believe it’s so ridiculous.
I went looking for a start against the Pirates where Arrieta did not dominate and I came across September 13, 2013 at PNC Park. The Pirates were well on their way to breaking the losing streak and earn their first postseason berth in more than 20 years. The 63-84 Cubs came into town with Arrieta on the mound. An Arrieta that was sporting a 5.49 ERA. The Pirates hit three home runs off him…all in the 4th inning and all back-to-back-to-back. Pedro Alvarez, Russell Martin and Garrett Jones all took Arrieta deep one after another. Can you imagine that today? Nope. Arrieta finished the game with 5.0 innings, four runs allowed on six hits.
So after that start began the turn around for Arrieta. He made two more starts in 2013 and dominated and then 2014 and 2015 happened and he took off. Since that start against the Pirates, Arrieta has been a 1.97 ERA pitcher in 434.2 innings. So there’s that. He’ll add another chapter to his insane story tonight at PNC Park.
It’ll be a good measuring stick for this offense, who’s been so effective so far this season and leads the league in OBP/AVG, etc.
Jon Niese goes for the Pirates and despite being 3-0, he still has a 5.08 ERA. Niese against the Cubs lineup could be trouble as well. This doesn’t set up very well for the Pirates tonight, but that’s why they play the games.
As far as the lineup goes, Hurdle sits Marte and puts Matt Joyce in RF at cleanup. Joyce has good career numbers against Arrieta so the move makes sense, but most of his ABs were before 2013 when Arrieta was human and a mediocre pitcher. He’s the only active Pirates player that has homered off of Arrieta. Sean Rodriguez and David Freese has never faced Arrieta and McCutchen is 10-for-27 lifetime against him.