Every year there are a handful of pitchers that seemly come out of nowhere to dominate the league. Bartolo Colon, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Matt Harvey all shocked the baseball world in 2013, and Jake Arrieta has filled that role in 2014.
After amassing only 2.7 WAR in 487.2 IP across four seasons, Arrieta has already tallied 2.6 WAR this season, featuring an elite 27.5 percent strikeout rate and besting his career 9.8 percent walk rate with a solid 7.1 percent walk rate in 78.1 IP. Furthermore, his FIP sits at a comfortable 2.13, beating his previous career low of 4.05 by nearly 2 full points. Jake Arrieta has clearly become a new pitcher, and his pitch selection is a major reason why.
Previously, Arrieta relied heavily on his four-seam fastball and sinker to get batters out, while mixing in his curveball and slider 28.8 percent of the time. However, this year he cut back on his sinker usage from 37.6 percent to 23.9 percent, while doubling his slider frequency from 13.8 percent to 27.7 percent. Additionally, he’s throwing his curveball more often, creating a combined breaking pitch rate of 46.2 percent. This tweak has made his groundball rates jump from 40.4 percent to a strong 50.5 percent while reducing line drives from 25.4 percent percent to 20.9% percent Arrieta has boosted his strikeout numbers and simultaneously created weaker contact for batted balls. It’s a great combination.
Freddie Freeman got a good dosage of the new Jake Arrieta this weekend as he swung through a biting slider in Saturday’s game:
(GIF courtesy of @Pitcher GIFs)
It’s not easy being Freddie Freeman, going up against a slider that has already tallied 9.8 Runs Above Average for the season. In fact, it’s third highest rated slider in the majors, trailing only Garrett Richards and Yu Darvish.
Looks like Jake Arrieta has finally figured it out.
Nick Pollack writes for Pitcher GIFs and can found making an excessive amount of GIFs on Twitter @PitcherGIFs.