Listeners of Cubs radio broadcasts have grown accustomed to the familiar refrain of Pat Hughes’ iconic visual descriptions of the players on the field and the uniforms they wear. Prior to last season, a Jake Arrieta start at Wrigley Field might begin with talk of the pitcher’s strong physique, bright blue hat, and blue pinstriped shirt and trousers.
Times have changed and so have the colors in Arrieta’s uniform. For the first time since leaving the Cubs, he will take the mound at Wrigley in different-colored cap with an entirely different pair of trousers.
While his time with the Cubs has come to an end, few players have had a greater impact on this current Cubs window of contention than Arrieta. Beginning in 2013, he compiled quite a body of work with the team, starting 128 games and posting a 2.73 ERA over 803 innings pitched. That success translated to an All-Star appearance, a Cy Young award, and a World Series ring.
As he returns to Chicago for the first time as an opposing starter, I thought it worthwhile to look back at a few particulars of his storied Cubs career.
The second half of 2015
Arrieta was very good in 2014, his first full season with the Cubs, but he didn’t get his due as a star until the following season. He won the Cy Young in 2015 on the strength of a second half performance that may have represented the best pitching anyone alive has ever seen.
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That 0.75 ERA is dazzling on its own, but it’s even more remarkable when you spell out what it takes to get there. In 107.1 innings pitched, Arrieta gave up only nine total earned runs. He allowed zero earned runs in 10 of his 15 second-half starts.
It will probably come as no surprise that no pitcher had ever put up a lower second-half ERA.
Speaking of the second half of 2015, it also produced the first of two no-hitters Arrieta threw as a Cub. On a late August night at Dodger Stadium, he tossed 9 innings of no-hit ball while striking out 12 and walking just one.
While those Dodgers may not have been the offensive juggernaut that LA teams of recent years have been, they were no slouches. That Arrieta managed to no-hit a lineup with Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, and Yasmani Grandal is a significant achievement.
He followed up with another no-no early the following season against the Cincinnati Reds. No one will confuse that team with a contender, but Great American Ball Park is still a difficult pitching environment and Reds teams of recent years have generally been able to produce runs, if nothing else.
Less than 10 regular season starts came between his pair of no-hitters.
None of Arrieta’s achievements loom larger than the part he played in bringing the Cubs a World Series title for the first time in 108 years. He wasn’t otherworldly in all three of the Cubs’ postseasons in which he appeared, but he was a reliable member of the rotation during that run of unprecedented success.
In 52.2 innings pitched over nine starts, he compiled a 5-3 record with a 3.08 ERA, notching 66 strikeouts and allowing just over one baserunner per inning. He also managed to have at least one absolutely crucial start in each postseason in which he appeared.
Perhaps no single game signaled the arrival of this group of Cubs more than the team’s 2015 Wild Card win against the Pirates. In that game, Arrieta struck out 11 in a complete game shutout against a very good Pirates team.
While he wasn’t able to carry that success through the rest of the 2015 postseason, he more than made up for it the next year.
In the 2016 playoffs, and in the World Series in particular, Arrieta played a critical role in the team’s success. He pitched 11.1 innings during the Fall Classic, allowing only three earned runs. The Cubs won both of his starts in that series, including his dominant performance in a win-or-go-home Game 6 in Cleveland to force a seventh game.
The Cubs went on to win that seventh game and the World Series, something people tend to forget. Arrieta didn’t pitch in that finale, but the Cubs likely wouldn’t have gotten there without him.
Though he now plays his home games in red pinstripes, Arrieta will always have a special place in the hearts of Cubs fans. Undoubtedly, those present at Wrigley Field will remind him of that when he takes the mound Monday night.
Ed. note: Here’s where I pop in to tell Cubs radio listeners about our “I agree, Pat” and “This could be a turning point” shirts. Both are available now in the Cubs Insider shop, along with many other designs.