Jake Arrieta Believes Stuff Still There, David Ross May Finally Have to Make Choice

It’s been almost two weeks since I wrote that Jake Arrieta was putting the Cubs in a tough spot when it came to a decision on his spot. Not just in the rotation, mind you, but on the active roster. He was coming off of a pair of starts in which he’d allowed 10 total runs (8 earned) on 10 hits, prior to which he’d allowed 28 runs on 39 hits over seven starts.

On the evening of June 25, Arrieta hung on for dear life as he limited the Dodgers to two runs over five innings, but it was clear he was getting a little help from fate. That caught up to him five days later, when he did all he could to hand back the 7-0 lead his offense had built in its first turn against the Brewers. The baseball gods apparently weren’t satisfied with his sacrifice, as he was yet again part of a 7-0 early lead Tuesday night.

This time, however, it was the Phillies jumping out right away to tag Arrieta for seven runs on six hits and two walks over just 1.2 innings of work. And if you don’t buy the fate idea, please explain how the Cubs’ opponents scored 15 in each of those games. Yeah, I thought so.

The worst part of all this is that just about everyone could see this coming several miles away.

Unlike a wreck on the interstate that comes up suddenly and forces you to slam on the brakes, Arrieta’s diminution has been marked by signs every quarter mile or so letting you know that you need to merge because a lane will be closed ahead. Guess that makes David Ross the inconsiderate a-hole who waits until the end and holds up traffic.

“I gotta look at that,” Ross replied when asked about Arrieta’s role moving forward. “We got a lot going on. 11 losses in a row, I think there’s a lot to look at. I’ll wrap my brain around this one tonight and attack the problems in the morning.”

Look, I get that these guys are former teammates and that the Cubs have an insatiable jones for keeping veteran players on the roster at all costs, but it’s been clear for a while now that this isn’t going to work. Then again, we’re talking about a team that has now lost 11 straight games and really has nothing to play for other than pride.

And boy do we know Arrieta’s got that in spades.

“This sucks, really, it does,” Arrieta said after the effort that pushed his ERA to 6.30 on the season. “But I’m not going to hang my head. I’m going to continue to work and do whatever needs to be done. The stuff is too good…

“I know where my stuff ranks in the game. I watch a lot of baseball and it’s still there, it is. This is a tough stretch for us as a team, for me individually. Whatever has to be done will be done, there’s no question in my mind.”

Far be it for me to call him delusional, but I don’t think anyone who watches a lot of baseball could possibly believe Arrieta’s stuff still ranks anywhere near the best. In terms of run value, the -9.3 he’s generated with his fastball/sinker combo ranks 91st in MLB among 100 pitchers with at least 70 innings thrown this season.

The -6.9 from his cutter might get you to say, “Nice!” but it ranks 38th among 40 pitchers per FanGraphs. His change is a little better, coming in at No. 53 out of 89, but he only throws it 5.6% of the time. That all adds up to a mere 7.8% swinging-strike percentage that ranks 97th among that same group of 100 referenced earlier.

And keep in mind that all of those numbers are from prior to Tuesday’s start because FanGraphs had not yet updated as of post time.

It’s not a matter of execution, as Arrieta is trying to make you believe. Hell, he’s probably trying to speak it into existence and convince himself as well. The guy just doesn’t have it any longer and it’s already past time for Ross to tell him.

It’s also past time for the Cubs to put together a run, but they could at least use the rotation spot to stretch out Keegan Thompson, Justin Steele, or another young pitcher who could give them innings next season and beyond. The way Arrieta is pitching now, his only value is in improving the Cubs’ draft position for next summer.

The former Cy Young winner is right about one thing though: This sucks. Even as improbable as a resurgence may have been when he signed, the reunion felt pretty damn good for a minute there. And Arrieta was pitching well early, aided though he may have been by good fortune coming out of the gate.

You’d always prefer to see someone go out on their own terms, especially someone with a lofty place in team lore, but it’s looking more and more like the Cubs might have to show their former ace the door. Whether that’s with a phantom injury that never quite heals up — kind of like Daniel Descalso‘s ankle — or just an outright DFA, we should find out soon what Arrieta’s future with the team will be.

Then again, maybe they just keep running him out there until he either makes good on his claims or finally figures out the truth for himself.

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