At 6′ 4″, 225 pounds calling Jake Arrieta a little man isn’t exactly accurate, but Queen didn’t really have a lyric that fit his description. Even still, Arrieta’s impact 2014 created fantasy ripples that was anything but little. Despite making just 25 starts spanning 156.2 innings, the right-hander proceeded to breakout with a 2.53 ERA backed up by a 2.73 xFIP and 2.83 SIERA. Factor in the 9.53 K/9 (27.2% strikeout rate) and you have yourself a fantasy ace.
The 2014 season saw Arrieta set personal single season highs in starts, innings pitched, strikeouts, K%, ground ball rate and walk rate. With a .274 BABIP compared to a .281 career rate, he wasn’t not particularly fortunate in the batted ball department. Arrieta did catch a break as far as his 0.29 HR/9. Both his HR/9 and HR/FB rate were the second lowest of any starting pitcher, minimum 150 IP. Given that Arrieta calls Wrigley Field home, the HR rate is quite surprising. In conjunction with his lowered home run rate, Arrieta’s strong 49.2% GB%, mostly by changing up his pitching style. Courtesy of Brooks Baseball, the tables below display Arrieta’s pitches.
While both sinkers and sliders generate ground balls, this past season Arrieta has relied much more on his breaking ball, even more than any other pitch. Last season he made just 14 starts and in 2012 he made 18 starts as well as six relief appearances, though he managed to accrue 190 innings between the two years. The uptick in strikeouts can be attributed to the increase of swinging strikes as well as higher frequency of breaking balls.
For the second consecutive season — albeit both injury shortened — Arrieta posted at least a 59.5% first strike rate, while not particularly high, is more than 2% higher than his carer F-Strike%. While he continue to gather initial strikes at a relatively high rate to what he posted in the past, Arrieta’s walk rate should be maintainable.
Presuming Arrieta continues to pitch in this manner, something both Jeff Sullivan and Eno Sarris have addressed, then Arrieta may continue to be a strong fantasy pitcher. An issue would be the jump in his slider usage, as it has nearly doubled this past season compared to 2012-13. It’d be hard for Arrieta to repeat his excellent home run numbers, but even once he regresses in that department, he’ll still be a strong fantasy pitcher. With a checkered history, Arrieta may be a relative bargain on draft day, even with the potential injury concerns.
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