Jake Arrieta: The Second Half Savior

It doesn’t take a baseball expert to realize that Jake Arrieta has been absolutely torching batters in the months of July and August. After struggling for majority of the first half this season, the Cubs ace has been putting down batters left and right. Since the All-Star break, Arrieta has put up an impressive stat line. Posting a 6-2 record and a 1.98 ERA in 10 appearances, he has absolutely obliterated opposing batters. In those 10 appearances, Arrieta has 8 quality starts under his belt, 55 strike outs, and more impressively only 18 walked batters. The walk category was a massive weakness for Jake last year, posting a career high for the statistic. To top off those credentials, Jake ‘the Snake’ was awarded National League Pitcher of the Month for August.

This isn’t the first time that Jake has proven post All-Star break dominance. Remember the second half of the 2015 season? Only a select portion of Cubs fans might remember, since most decided to come out of the shadows just last year. During that tyrant of second half pitching superiority, Arrieta posted a 12-1 record along with a record-breaking 0.75 ERA. He put down 113 batters on strikes, rang in 15 quality starts, threw a no hitter, and has a National League CY Young Award to show for all of it. I think everybody and their brother wanted a #49 jersey after that impressive run. The second half of 2017 goes to show that history can repeat itself (kind of).

Arrieta exited Monday’s game in Pittsburgh with presumed hamstring tightness. After attempting to throw a warm-up pitch during the top half of the 3rd inning, he was pulled indefinitely. This certainly raised some concern for Cubs fans across the map. After the game, Jake described the injury as a “foreign feeling.” He included some soothing words when he said, “I think it could have been a lot worse. No pop or anything like that. So that’s a good sign.” According to the Chicago Tribune, Jake Arrieta underwent an MRI on his right hamstring Tuesday afternoon, which revealed a Grade 1 strain. This is a huge exhale for the Cubs considering the postseason is just a month away. As precautionary protocol, Arrieta will sit out his next 1-2 scheduled starts.

With all of that being said, we cannot forget that he is playing on a contract year. I think that signing him to a 1-year deal was a smart move by the Cubs front office, especially after an unstable 2016 performance. This second half success is a little bittersweet for Theo and Jed, for now they have a tough decision to face. At the age of 31, going on 32 by the start of next season, Arrieta has already made it pretty clear that he wants to extend his time in Chicago for the long-term. Does this recent success waiver a payday for the veteran? Some say yes, while others say it’s too risky to do so. I’m definitely on the edge, regardless of my love for the guy. I think the rest of this season, and hopefully post-season, will push me one way or the other. It’s pretty hard to say no when watching that nasty sinker put batters into coffins, but as Cubs fans, we must remain skeptical.

But I mean… look at how pretty that is…

Let’s hope that Arrieta can keep this momentum moving through September and into October, because God knows this team needs it. If I’m Joe Maddon, I’m probably making sure that the rest of my starting rotation is drinking the same water as Jake Arrieta, because this World Series pitching hangover is giving everybody a serious migraine. Pending that the rest of the rotation stays healthy, and Maddon doesn’t make any of his typically abnormal managerial moves, Arrieta will probably face Milwaukee and St. Louis to conclude the month. With this hamstring injury surfacing, this could easily be altered, creating yet another challenge for a ball club that most believe is under-performing. Regardless, if there’s any month on the regular season calendar for Arrieta to prove himself, it’s this one. So let’s see it Jake, you know we’re all pushing for you. The last thing we want to see is that sinker putting down batters in Cubbie blue.

Arrieta

CHARLES LECLAIRE / USA TODAY

This September is going to feel a whole lot different than last year. That’s probably because the Cubs clinched the division in the middle of the month, and finished the season 17.5 games above the second place Cardinals. This month is going to feel more like the end of 2015, where every divisional matchup is a must-win. Honestly, at this point, every game on the calendar is a must-win. The Cubs finish up a four game stretch against Pittsburgh on Thursday and break into a crucial weekend series against Milwaukee. The Brewers trail a mere 4.5 games behind the Cubs in the battle for the NL Central crown. For division play following this upcoming weekend, the Cubs will see Milwaukee once more, St. Louis twice, and then Cincinnati to close the season.