What should Phillies fans make of Jake Arrieta’s disappointing season?
One of the major talking points surrounding the Phillies in 2019 was the concept of Bryce Harper being overrated and “overpaid.” While that’s an entirely different discussion to be had, if we’re talking about players being overpaid, look no further than former Cubs ace Jake Arrieta.
There was a time when Arrieta was hailed as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. A Cy Young winner, World Series champion, and 20+ win pitcher with Chicago, Arrieta was widely perceived as one of the elites of the baseball world, even receiving MVP votes in 2015. With all that said, it made total sense for the Phillies to be excited to bring him into the clubhouse back in 2018.
Two lackluster seasons and $55 million later, they appear to be regretting their expensive decision.
Arrieta was awful in 2019, there’s simply no other way to put it. His 4.64 ERA was the worst he’s put up since 2013 and his 1.474 WHIP was a career-high. Since 2014, this past year was a personal worst in terms of strikeouts, games started, and innings pitched. On top of all that his HR/9 ratio was the worst it’s been since 2011, and his H/9 statistic was the highest it’s ever been.
Arrieta started 24 games for the Phillies in 2019, routinely struggling to make it deep into games. He pitched past the 7th inning just four times all season, ending the year with eight no-decisions and an average innings pitched of 5.63. His lack of stamina and durability routinely cost the Phillies games, forcing Gabe Kapler to burn a number of bullpen arms in non-competitive matchups.
A common argument I’ve seen when fans discuss Arrieta’s rocky year is the fact that he was dealing with a bone spur injury. Bone spurs are zero fun, a significant injury that can absolutely hinder a pitchers’ ability to perform. However, to blame all of Arrieta’s struggles on said injury is simply a flawed approach.
Arrieta’s injury was reported by CBSSports on July 7. At this point in time Arrieta had pitched in 18 games and had an ERA of 4.67. Post-injury, Arrieta went on to pitch another six games, recording an ERA of 4.56 during this period of time… I hate to say it, but Arrieta was actually better after he got injured. To me, the revelation of the bone spur issue always just seemed like a convenient cop-out for a struggling pitcher. Had Arrieta been performing well, I doubt we ever hear about it.
TBOH editor George Stockburger gave Arrieta a “D” grade in his end of the season grading article and I pretty much agree with this. If I was feeling generous (which I’m not) I could even justify going up to a D+. Arrieta’s 2019 WAR calculated out to 0.9, and although terrible, it’s not as bad as other Phillie starters like Smyly, Velasquez, and Pivetta who actually recorded negative WARs.
Arrieta is due for another $20 million in 2020 if he chooses to opt into his contract (which he will). With that understood, it seems evident the Phillies will be forced to run him in the starting rotation for at least one more season. Considering he had an ERA creeping up towards 5.00 and routinely caused distractions off the field (Todd Frazier and Carlos Santana incidents), I can’t say I’m expecting much from the 33-year-old. However, pretty much anything would be better than the dumpster fire of a season he had this year.