Jake Arrieta is so Good, Even His Mistakes Aren’t Mistakes

Leadoff walks are the bane of a pitcher’s existence. Unless, that is, the pitcher in question is the reigning Cy Young winner. After facing the minimum in his two-inning start against the Indians last week, Jake Arrieta struck out the first two Padres he saw Monday before getting Wil Myers to fly out. Nine up, nine down.

But when Derek Norris came up to begin the second inning, Arrieta issued a four-pitch walk. Could it be that the ace was intimidated by Norris’s ability to cultivate a beard with at least as much thickness and luster as his own? Or perhaps something else was at play.

“It was intentionally unintentional, I guess,” Arrieta admitted coyly. “A good situation to work on.”

What is Spring Training for if not working on situations that will come up later in the season. I mean, sure, maybe Arrieta repeats his second-half heroics and doesn’t allow anyone to get on base during the regular season, but chances are he’ll have to pitch with the occasional runner in his periphery. Even if he didn’t go into the at-bat planning to walk Norris, I’m guessing Arrieta wasn’t trying particularly hard to record an out either.

So how did it work out?

Arrieta got back to work and retired the next three batters via strikeout, flyout, and groundout. Things got a little squirrelly in the third after Jemile Weeks rapped a line drive single to lead off the inning and later scored on a ground-rule double by Jon Jay. Strikeouts of Travis Jankowski (swinging) and Cory Spangenberg (looking) punctuated the hits and Wil Myers grounded out to end things.

The fourth inning was relatively uneventful and Arrieta gave way to the bullpen after allowing just that lone run on two hits to go with a pair of walks and five strikeouts. The Cubs went on to give up nine more runs in what was eventually a 10-2 loss, but all of those additional tallies were surrendered by pitchers who probably won’t be in Chicago when April rolls around.

This, then, is when we have to get selective about what we discern from these games. Arrieta being awesome: important. Cubs being handed a lopsided loss: not important. I’ve written about the likelihood of regression from last year’s historic performance, but even a moderate — and expected — drop-off leaves you with an elite pitcher. But if these first half-dozen innings of the spring are any indication, the only thing that may be able to slow down Jake Arrieta is…Jake Arrieta.

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