The Rundown: Arrieta Pitching Himself Out of Chicago, El Mago En Fuego

For a while there, Jake Arrieta wasn’t looking like the guy who won the Cy Young Award and who confidently declared that “Aces get seven years.” In fact, he straight-up sucked. Well, at least according to the lofty standards he’d set for himself.

Through his first 16 starts, the hirsute hurler had a 4.67 ERA (4.17 FIP) and was whatever the opposite of consistent is, but, like, a cooler word than just “inconsistent.” The man who you knew was going to win every time he took the bump had turn into a potential disaster on the mound. You never knew when his mechanics would fail him and he’d just fall apart before your eyes.

The whole time, talk of his impending free agency went from the Cubs letting him walk for a monster deal to them possibly re-signing him on a value deal to him being radioactive matter that they wouldn’t touch with a 10-meter cattle prod. But then a curious thing happened: Jake Arrieta started to get good again.

He allowed one hit over seven innings in his 17th start and now has a 2.03 ERA (3.64 FIP) over his last nine outings. Opponents have clubbed only five home runs (0.78 HR/9) in that time, a drastic improvement over the 13 (1.32 HR/9) he’d given up in the initial sample. Even before a tired shoulder landed Jon Lester on the DL, Arrieta had established himself as the Cubs’ best pitcher. And in doing so, he’s basically pitched himself right out of town.

While a $150 million contract would have been unthinkable only a month ago, Arrieta might be able to land one if he keeps pitching like he has been. Even a pact that falls up to a third less than that would likely be too rich for the Cubs’ blood, not only because of the money but also the length. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to zip tie yourself to a 32-year-old with questionable mechanics and a desire to capitalize on his past for that last big deal.

Not that I blame him. If I’m Arrieta I’m leveraging the past few seasons for all they’re worth. And they should be worth a helluva lot at this point. But as far as the Cubs are concerned, all that matters is that Arrieta is pitching his ass off for them for the next couple months.

El Mago puttin on a show

Ednel Javier Freaking Baez, y’all.

After the Blue Jays had scored three runs in the top of the 8th to close the gap to a single run, Baez dug in and blasted a two-run homer to push the lead to a more comfortable margin. The ball left the yard at 105 mph, a right hard knock. Rarely are balls hit harder.

Of course, someone did hit a ball harder in the top of the next inning. Too bad Joey Bats made the grievous error of hitting said ball in Javy’s direction.

And the crazy thing about both the homer and the incredible snag was that neither came as much of a surprise for the man they call El Mago. Javy makes a practice of doing things others can’t even attempt, let alone pull off.

He didn’t look like much of a magician earlier this season, though, particularly after an April that saw him hit .203/.262/.339 with a wRC+ of 36. That’s, uh, bad. Since then, he’s gone .286/.320/.544 with a wRC+ of 115, which is better.

He’s improved steadily as the season has progressed, too, slashing .304/.336/.608 with a 134 wRC+ since July 1 and .308/.345/.644 with a 145 wRC+ in the second half. The strikeout rate has remained high, actually creeping up over the last couple months, but that’s a perfectly acceptable tradeoff when Javy’s hitting like he has otherwise.

As frustrating as it may be to see him flailing away at sliders in the dirt, that’s the price you pay in exchange for what we got Friday afternoon.

More news and notes

  • The Dodgers have acquired Curtis Granderson from the Mets for cash or a PTBNL
  • Max Scherzer was scratched from Friday’s start and has been placed on the DL with inflammation on the right side of his neck.
  • Trevor Rosenthal is seeking a second opinion on his injured elbow and may need surgery to address the “stability of his ligament.”
  • As if that wasn’t enough for the Cardinals, Adam Wainwright has been placed on the DL due to an elbow impingement.
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