Opinion

Phillies fans need to stop feeding into “Jake Arrieta stinks” nonsense



Arrieta has tossed more Quality Starts than any other Phillies pitcher in 2019, but has been hit hard over his last few outings. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Last night, as I drove home from Citizens Bank Park after enjoying the Phillies 4-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, it happened again.

Listening to a local sports talk radio station, the host was discussing the Phillies starting pitching rotation options. When he came to Jake Arrieta, once again the talk turned negative.

In fact, when considering a rotation that he would like to see in the postseason, those options included Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, and some theoretical hoped-for outside addition, such as Madison Bumgarner.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I would love to see the Phillies add a starting pitcher of the experience and skill level of a MadBum, a pending free agent who turns just 30-years-old on August 1.

However, to somehow believe that Eflin and Pivetta are better bets for October success than Arrieta is simply naive, and disregards the facts. First, neither Eflin nor Pivetta has ever pitched in the pressurized crucible of big-league postseason baseball. For that matter, neither has Nola.

You simply cannot discount that experience factor with Arrieta. The veteran right-hander has nine games of postseason experience under his belt, under some of the most clutch circumstances that a pitcher can face.

He tossed a shutout in the 2015 NL Wildcard Game at Pittsburgh. In Game Two of the 2016 World Series, Arrieta allowed just two hits over 5.2 innings as the Cubs evened up the Fall Classic at a game apiece. He then won Game 6, again tying up the World Series. The Cubs would win it in seven games, earning Arrieta a ring.

In all, Arrieta has pitched in one Wildcard Game, three NLDS games, three NLCS games, and has the two World Series starts on his résumé.

Okay, you might argue, he used to be good. Sure, he was the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner, has over 100 wins in Major League Baseball, and has all of that postseason experience. But that was yesterday’s news. Now, he stinks.

Well, if that is how you feel, then you are simply wrong. As President Josiah Bartlett famously said in “The West Wing”: “Just be wrong. Just stand there in your wrongness and be wrong and get used to it.

Sure, Arrieta has thrown some clunkers in the 2019 season. In five of his 13 starts, the 33-year-old right-hander has surrendered four runs or more. In fact, that has happened four times in his last six outings, and in five of his last eight.

Pivetta has much to prove before he can be considered an October starting pitching option. (Ian D’Andrea)

But on the whole, Arrieta has provided the Phillies with eight Quality Starts this season. That is more than Eflin (7), Nola (5), or Pivetta (1) has given the ball club. For a team whose bullpen has been decimated by injuries, that is a statistic that cannot be ignored.

Yes, Arrieta was hit harder in May than in April, when his first five outings were all of that Quality Start variety. He allowed 35 hits across a half-dozen starts in April. That number upped to 40 hits over another half-dozen in May. But that is really just one more hit per game. The more troubling aspect is that his home runs total doubled from four in April to eight in May.

His first start in the month of June, which came in San Diego on Wednesday, was more of the same. Arrieta surrendered two more homers among seven hits while also walking five batters. It all amounted to an ugly five earned runs allowed which could have been even more over 97 pitches thrown across just 4.2 innings.

Recency factor is a very real thing, especially where the psyche of pro sports fans is concerned. That is especially so in a serious sports town such as Philly. Arrieta’s last start, and a number of his more recent outings, are what is fresh in everyone’s minds. So in some ways, the bad takes are understandable.

But let’s not forget that streak of five straight Quality Starts to open the season, which helped the Phillies to push into first place. And even during that downturn in April, he still supplied the team with four starts of six or more innings. Included among those was an eight-inning gem at Milwaukee.

Some fans simply won’t forgive Arrieta for what they believe to be a “big mouth”, feeling that he threw players under the bus with some earlier post-game comments to the media. That is just sensationalist nonsense blown up by those radio talk hosts.

The fact is that Arrieta, and J.T. Realmuto (who also did the same thing), spoke to their teammates directly before and in addition to broaching any public criticism. No one was “thrown under the bus”, they were called out in a very straightforward manner when an obvious situation arose.

One of the things that last year’s Phillies team was desperately missing was veteran leadership, someone willing to stand up and speak truth at key moments. It is not time to shut that down now that the Phillies have it with a more experienced locker room this year.

Jake Arrieta is right, Phillies need Bryce Harper on the field

Few players are more willing to stand up and criticize themselves when they fail to produce than Arrieta, as exemplified per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia following his poor outing against the Dodgers a week ago:

I’m just leaving them over too much of the plate, really. That’s it. I can get lefties out. You can’t miss middle-in with spin to power-hitting left-handed hitters. You just can’t do it. That’s what I did too many times tonight.

Realmuto has also not been hesitant to be publicly critical in the media, but has not met with the same negative fan scrutiny. (Ian D’Andrea)

The Phillies signed Arrieta to a contract last March as a free agent. His deal guarantees three years at $75 million total: $30 last year, $25 mill this year, and finally $20 for the 2020 season. There are further team options at $22.5 million for two additional years in his age 35 and 36 seasons, should the Phillies choose to continue with him.

In his first season with the team a year ago, Arrieta went 10-11 with a 3.96 ERA and 1.286 WHIP. He allowed 165 hits over 172.2 innings with a 138/57 K:BB ratio. That is the stuff of a number three or four starter, not an “Ace”, which is the level at which Arrieta is being paid.

While there are some Phillies fans who hold him to that type of standard, those fans are simply being unrealistic. Arrieta will likely never again by a Cy Young-caliber pitcher. He is never again going to be a number one starter, an “Ace”, for any extended period. The Phillies quite simply had to overpay in order to get him to come to an organization which, at the time, had been a consistent loser for a half-dozen years.

Arrieta needs to be better. That much is absolutely true. He would tell you the same thing. If he gets back to being more of the pitcher that he was during April, it will be a major boost to the Phillies pitching staff. And if he continues to struggle as he did in May, it will only make things tougher. But right now, there is no reason to be discussing some theoretical October pitching rotation that includes 25 and 26-year-olds with no playoff experience over a 33-year-old with a boat load of postseason successes.

My money is on Arrieta to figure it out, turn it back around, and to remain an important piece to the Phillies puzzle as they try to remain in contention through the summer. He gets another chance beginning with his next scheduled start on Tuesday night at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

 

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Craig Glessner

    June 8, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    If he quits pitching like garbage people will stop saying he is garbage I think that is fair. If I go into a playoff game I would definitely rather have Eflin, and to use the lack of experience card is ridiculous because how else do you get the experience. Nola and Eflin are without a doubt 1 and 2 in this rotation. Straight up trade Arrieta for Bumgarner and hope between Eickhoff, Pivetta and Cole Irvin can hold on and pitch effective for the whole season.

  2. Phantatic

    June 8, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    I agree with Craig Glessner and disagree with the author of this article.

    The Phillies lost 5 games in a row starting with St. Louis, LA Dodgers then the first game in San Diego. The Phillies desperately needed someone to stop the bleeding. Jake came up in game 2 of the Padres series and pitched a total clunker. Total garbage. If it weren’t for Jay Bruce, the Phils would have lost their 6th straight.

    Thanks Arrieta. For nothing. I want to like Arrieta and if he pitches like Cy Young I will be happy for him. I have nothing against him. But PITCH for God’s sake. We need you.

  3. chief

    June 8, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    That you think SF would do that deal proves you know nothing.

  4. Craig Glessner

    June 9, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Well chief Arrieta is still under contract next season and Bumgarner is not San Francisco does not have as much leverage as they would like. Maybe we would have to throw in a low level prospect. Is that a better deal for you Geronimo

  5. Chuck mcd

    June 9, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Seem like you know very little about baseball. He’s been stinking up the joint all season. He’s also quick to criticize teammates but not himself. I rather him go somewhere else to be on the Phillies.

  6. Phanatic

    June 9, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    Arrieta and Harper for Bumgarner. We could plug Nick Williams in RF to do what Harper has done so far. If SF laughs in our face we can throw in Hoskins who is another bust. And might as well give them Franco who would be addition by subtraction.

    Also, is the writer of this article Gabe’s brother or something? Only a Gabe Kapler relative would sing the praises of a failure. Just before Herrera went out of commission Gabe was singing his praises on WIP. Then he sung the praises of Segura after he put Cutch in the hospital and now this Arrieta nonsense.

    HI GABE!!

    • Matt Veasey

      June 9, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      Yo, glad that I could give you the opportunity to vent. It’s important that fans get the chance to do that kind of thing when a player is slumping. Of course, after Arrieta’s first five starts of the season, I’m quite sure you were nowhere to be found with this kind of take. But hey, as a Phillies fan for 49 seasons now and on social media since 1997, I get it. Understood. You need to vent. Let it out. Hope you feel better. Really.

  7. Phanatic

    June 9, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    I don’t mind Arrieta criticizing teammates who are not doing their job. Someone has to do it since Gabe Kapler won’t.

    Whether Arrieta is a quality pitcher for the Phillies is a separate issue and I do not think he is. He is an overpaid underachiever like Nola and Harper. The only player I like on this team is J.T. Realmuto and to a lesser extent Jean Segura. The rest can be packaged and shipped out and honestly I couldn’t care less.

    Mr. Veasey, Arrieta went up against a playoff team in LA and what did he do?

  8. Jeff Orbach

    June 12, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Well he really stunk up the joint last night. A quality start against a hot Arizona team. I agree that he’s overpaid,but it’s not my money. Relax , take a breath and enjoy the fact that it’s baseball season.

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