If you are not an Orioles fan and you check the up-to-date wins list in the major leagues, you’ve probably never heard of the Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, who is currently tied with 10 other pitchers on the list with nine wins in only his second season in the majors.
I was reading the Bleacher Report today and ran across an interesting article describing Arrieta’s season as more of lucky than impressive. Arrieta has been the most consistent starter for the Orioles this season, and really has begun the season for the Birds better than any other starter since 2006. I feel that it’s unfair to criticize and downplay the fact that one of the Orioles starting pitchers leads the majors in wins with a couple of weeks left before the All-Star break.
Arrieta sports a 9-4 record for the Birds with a 4.50 ERA in 88 innings while striking out 71 and only walking 42 batters. Although his ERA is a bit high, his other statistics are very strong. He’s allowed only 76 hits, which is 12 less than his innings pitched.
Entering the season, Arrieta was expected to be the Orioles third starter in the rotation at best, behind ace Jeremy Guthrie and southpaw Brian Matusz. There was no indication that Arrieta would have a breakout season, especially since last season he was shut down early due to inflammation and bone spurs in his pitching elbow, although he did win three games in spring training (but who cares about spring training).
The Orioles right-handed pitcher tossed 100.1 innings with a 4.66 ERA in his first season with the club who drafted him in 2007. Arrieta pitched to an even 6-6 record, but allowed more hits than innings pitched (106) and only struck out 52 batters, compared to this season when he’s already sat down 71 opponents on strikes.
Arrieta is progressing through his second season with the Birds very nicely. His strike outs per nine innings ratio has risen from 4.7 to 7.3 in 2011, while his walks per nine innings ratio has remained exactly the same thus far into the season at 4.8.
Opponents are hitting only .233 off of Arrieta this season, which ranks him 30th in the majors, under the left-handed flame-throwing David Price of the Rays. 11 of his 16 starts have been quality outings (a start in which a pitcher tosses at least six innings and allows no more than three runs).
Arrieta has only given up more than three runs this season in three games, and one of those games he was taken out because of a possible injury to his throwing elbow. Arrieta has only thrown less than six innings in five of his starts, and he exited the game early in two of those starts due to a possibly injury for precautionary reasons- last game was his second early exit.
So, you might be wondering how Arrieta has won so many games this season with an ERA of 4.50 (his ERA is not the highest among the other 11 MLB starters tied with nine wins as of June 23rd- Max Sherzer has a 4.61 for the Tigers). Five of the 11 starters tied for the lead in wins in the majors have a sub three ERA and four of them have an ERA in the threes (while the other two have already been mentioned).
Well, the answer is that the Orioles hitters love when Arrieta toes the rubber. The Birds’ have scored 92 runs this season for Arrieta in his 16 starts, an average of 9.41 runs per game when he is on the hill, which is the most of any major-league starter this season, but three other wins leaders are in the top 10 in run support (Jon Lester is ranked 2nd, C.C. Sabathia is 6th and Sherzer comes in at 7th).
So, yes Arrieta does receive a great amount of run support per game, but that should not discredit the great work he has done on the hill. Last season, Phil Hughes ranked 1st with 9.60 run support (more than Arrieta this season) and he won 18 games with a 4.19 ERA, but he was an All-Star and was praised for his season last year with the Yankees.
Not only has Arrieta put up impressive numbers this season, he is getting stronger each month and his ERA continues to fall; in April, he finished the first month of the season with a high 5.01 ERA, but recorded three wins and only one loss. His ERA dropped to 4.97 after a strong May when he went 3-2 with a 4.94 ERA.
June has been Arrieta’s best month thus far as he is 3-1 and his ERA is 3.35 after only surrendering nine earned runs this month and he still has one more start to round out June. So, Arrieta could possibly record the most wins he has ever had in a single month with four.
Arrieta is on the verge of putting together one of the best first half performances by an Orioles starter in the last 11 seasons with his nine wins, as of now, before the break.
The last Orioles starting pitcher to win at least nine games before the All-Star break was southpaw Erik Bedard (10), who is currently with the Seattle Mariners and dominating in his resurgent season; he finished with 15 wins for the Birds that season, the most for an Orioles starter over the last five years.
In 2003, Aruban-born ace Sydney Ponson won 12 games before the All-Star break and he later went on to win 17 games for the Birds and the Giants, which proved to be his best season as a major-leaguer; Ponson was tied for second in the majors with those 12 victories before the break.
Arrieta has at least three more starts before the mid-summer classic, so there is a shot, albeit a long shot, for him to win 12 games for the Orioles before the break for the first time in eight seasons. Even if Arrieta is only able to win one of the three games, he’ll still match Bedard with 10 victories.
As for overall wins in an entire season, the most wins that an Orioles starter has recorded is 15 and that has happened only twice, once in 2006 with Bedard and once in 2005 with then ace Rodrigo Lopez. Obviously, Arrieta has a great shot at winning more than 15 games this season if he is able to continue his dominance and stay injury-free.
So, even though the Birds score over nine runs per game, on average, there is no need to label his success this season as just luck. If Arrieta was surrendering more than 5 runs per game every time he takes the mound, then that is a different story.
The American League average ERA this season is statistically lower than usual at 3.84, which means he gives up less than one more earned run than the average. Usually, the average ERA in the American League is in the low fours. As already stated, Arrieta’s ERA has been declining each month and is under 3.5 this month. He could easily lower his ERA to around the league average by the end of the season barring no injuries and he continues his consistent pitching.
Update on Arrieta’s Injury
Arrieta exited his last start against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday this week due to inflammation in his pitching elbow and bone spurs. He was bothered by this last season and that’s why he didn’t finish the last three weeks or so of the season.
Both Arrieta and Buck Showalter have confirmed that the injury is not serious, he just needs to rest for a little while and regain some of his strength. His velocity was down in the Steel City and he didn’t have the arm strength he usually does, even though he won his ninth game.
With a day off yesterday and this coming Monday, the Birds decided to push him back four days and have him start on Wednesday of next week against the St. Louis Cardinals instead of his regularly scheduled start this Saturday against the Cincinnati Reds.
At home this season, Arrieta is 5-2 with a 4.50 ERA and he will be going for his 10th win of the season against the Cardinals who will be without their slugger Albert Pujols.
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About the Author
Written by Alex Van Rees
I am 22 years old and I recently graduated from James Madison University this May with a BA degree and a major in journalism. I live in Reston, VA, about 20 minutes outside of Washington. I am looking for an entry-level position with a sports media company where I can demonstrate my writing, interviewing and technical skills to better the organization.