• Apr

    Arrieta in 2011?

    2010 saw the major league debut of Jake Arrieta. What can be expected of him in 2011?

    To me, what you can get out of Arrieta is a real key to the overall rotation. Let us take a look at some of Arrieta’s numbers.

    2010 MLB: 6-6, 4.66 era, 100.1 IP, 106 hits, 9 hr’s, 48 walks, 52 k’s, .767 OPS, 0.80 G/F
    2010 AAA:
    6-2, 1.85 era, 73 IP, 48 hits, 3 hr’s, 34 walks, 64 k’s
    2009 AAA:
    5-8, 3.93 era, 91 IP, 97 hits, 9 hr’s, 33 walks 78 k’s
    2009 AA:
    6-3, 2.59 era, 59 IP, 45 hits, 4 hr’s, 23 walks, 70 k’s

    So what do we see here? We see that as a 24-year-old in his first go-round in the bigs, he was competitive. His walk rate was increased over what it was in the minors. This is a pretty good indication that he was able to get minor Lleague hitters to expand their strike zones, while the major league hitters were a bit more patient.

    His 2010 AAA numbers were vastly improved over his 2009 AAA numbers. I read that as Arrieta being more comfortable in his surroundings and making some adjustments to the competition. You would hope to see similar growth from him this year, in his second season in the bigs.

    Beyond just ‘hoping’ for improvement from Arrieta, how he ended the 2010 season gives optimism for that. In September, he drastically improved his control, allowing just 2 walks over his last 17.1 innings.

    Here is a Fangraphs.com article from July that talked about Arrieta’s early struggles:

    The Fangraphs article mentioned a lot of advanced metrics. Here is a review of where he was at the time of the article (July 26th) and where he finished the year.

    Swinging Strike Rate 7/26: 5.5%
    Swinging Strike Rate End of Year: 5.7%
    MLB Avg: 8.4%

    Outside Swing % 7/26: 32.1%
    Outside Swing % End of Year: 29%
    MLB Avg: 28.9%

    Outside Contact rate % 7/26: 80.5%
    Outside Contact rate % End of Year: 76.3%
    MLB Avg: 66.5%

    Z-Contact % 7/26: 90.6%  (Measures % of times a batter makes contact w/ the ball when swinging at pitches within the strike zone)
    Z-Contact % End of Year: 92.1%
    MLB Avg: 88.2%

    First Pitch Strike % 7/26: 54.3%
    First Pitch Strike % End of Year: 54.1%
    MLB Avg: 58.8%

    So as the year progressed, he got MLB hitters to swing at more pitches (but not as much as the league average), and hitters continued to make contact at a high percentage. The most interesting number I see is the First Pitch Strike %. It makes sense to me that if he falls behind in counts early, hitters are able wait for their pitch longer (and thus avoid swinging at as many pitches outside the zone). Clearly if Arrieta can improve there, he will likely improve his walk rate as well.

    The 6’4, 220-pound Arrieta turned 25 in March. For the 2011 season, I predict the following:
    13-10, 3.99 era, 185 innings, 180 hits, 82 er, 18 homers, 82 walks, 120 k’s

    Might be overly optimistic for ’11, but I think it is within reason.

    I would not get fixed on the era, as that is basically irrelevant. If he provides those 185 ip I projected and allows 95 er (4.62 era) he will still be effective. What the O’s need most out of Arrieta is for him to start every 5th day and provide consistent innings. I greatly respect ESPN’s Keith Law, but I disagree with Law’s contention that Arrieta will never be more than a third starter. I think you will be able to make a more accurate determination of Arrieta’s ceiling after a full year of starting in the bigs in 2011. Also, enough with the calls of moving Arrieta to closer in the near term. While it might make sense eventually if the control and secondary pitches do not progress, it does not make sense now.

    What are your thoughts on the young righty?

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Michael Williams

Lifelong. Down by the river.