Saturday, April 7, 2012

Arrieta Analysis

   Jake Arrieta has long been known as one of the Orioles young "cavalry". According to Baseball America, he ranked as the #67 Prospect in 2009, and #99 in 2010. However, he struggled in his first two years with the Orioles. Now after a successful surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow, it appears that Jake Arrieta is primed to excel his career (Hopefully). However, there are a few things that still primarily worry me about Arrieta.

   In 2011, batters had a .308/.321/.385 (55 PA) batting line against Arrieta on the first pitch of the count. Clearly he was allowing way too much contact on first pitch, most likely because he was attempting to groove a fastball by them. I honestly have no problem with that, since that is clearly his best pitch. Nonetheless, it leads into my next point. Arrieta also was walking 2.02 batters per inning, which is obviously not good. This leads me to the question; Is Arrieta shying away after the first pitch of counts because he is afraid of contact? It seems like a plausible reason, but we would need much more information to ensure this.

Photo: CBS Baltimore
  Yesterday Arrieta pitched a great game. I counted a first pitch strike on 13/24 batters he faced. That means he threw a first pitch strike 54% of the time yesterday. In the 4th inning he did give up two first pitch hits, and it seemed that they had "figured out" to attack him right off. Before the 4th inning, Arrieta was 8/9 on first pitch strikes. So obviously he was throwing strikes early, and making them challenge him. In reality, it seems that when Arrieta does indeed throw that first pitch strike, he has no problem during the inning (this is generally the case for any pitcher). The average for a batter after a 0-1 count was somewhere around .240 last season. If you look at the few innings yesterday where he "struggled", you can see he had ZERO first pitch strikes and was behind in the count a few times. The 4th inning was clearly his worst inning, but he got out of it due to a little help from the hitters swinging on the first pitch of the AB. That is a good thing for Arrieta, as it helped to limit his pitch count. It also makes me think that the above batting line from last season is not exactly a telling sign for this season.

   Last season Arrieta only threw into the 7th inning four times. In those four times he only pitched 3.2 innings. The main reason why Arrieta wasn't getting into the 7th was primarily because of his pitch count. He tends to try and strike out every single batter, and often finds himself throwing way too many pitches per AB. Yesterday he did a much better job at limiting the number of pitches per AB. In the first inning he threw 17 pitches, which was an OK start. He was bailed out by a double play as well after he issued a walk, although it was a great pitch to induce it. The next two innings he followed with 12 and 10 pitches, mainly because he was throwing first pitch strikes and getting ahead of the batter. He also was inducing a ton of ground balls yesterday, due to his heavy two-seam fastball tailing late (Credit to Don Olsen of Orioles-Nation) Overall, it was an impressive day for Arrieta, and he only walked two batters. I plan to keep track of Arrieta throughout the season, and hopefully he can keep this trend of throwing first pitch strikes going. I'd like to see it go all the way into the 7th inning next time, but the hitters could have picked up on this trend and thus why it altered.

His next start is scheduled against the New York Yankees

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