Throughout the off-season, we will highlight players and staff weekly who stopped through Iowa on their way to making history with the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs. Today, we take a look at the career of RHP Jake Arrieta.
Jake Arrieta, RHP
Drafted: By the Baltimore Orioles in the 5th round of the 2007 draft
MLB Debut: June 10, 2010
Iowa Cubs Career (2013): 2-2, 3.56 ERA, 7G, 7GS, 30.1IP, 32H, 16R, 12ER, 2HR, 16BB, 39K
Just three seasons ago, Arrieta was on a rollercoaster in the Baltimore Orioles system, exhibiting flashes of brilliance amongst struggles on the mound. A Cy Young award was a thought that seemed absurd for a man who almost gave up baseball because of the pressure.
Drafted in the 5th round of the 2007 draft out of Texas Christian University by the Orioles, Arrieta finally made it to the majors in 2010 and from there, was on a constant shuttle between Triple-A and the big stage over the next few years.
The 2013 season was a turn-around year for Arrieta, but the road was bumpy. He claimed an Opening Day roster spot as the O's No. 4 starter, but was quickly optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after four outings (14ER/19.0IP). From there, he continued to move back-and-forth between the bigs and the minors, getting recalled and optioned twice more. There was no question Arrieta was talented. Consistency was where he waivered.
In an interview with Bleacher Report in April 2013, Arrieta cited anxiety as his biggest hurdle to clear while trying to stick in the majors.
"It's pretty obvious," Arrieta explained. "I talked to Buck [Showalter] about a few things. We talked about things as far as high anxiety situations, and he pretty much asked me, 'Why do you have high anxiety in any situation with the stuff that you have?' Basically, I told him that I just want to be what my team needs me to be. And sometimes I create the anxiety for myself…" (as told to James Morisette)
The Cubs saw past the 7.23 ERA Arrieta posted in five starts for Baltimore through the first half of 2013 and recognized a pitcher with a powerful arm that just might benefit from a change of scenery. On July 2, Theo Epstein executed a deal that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles in exchange for Arrieta and Pedro Strop - two investments that cashed in big for the Cubs.
Iowa was Arrieta's first stop in the Cubs' organization. He made his first start on July 4 against Albuquerque and was forced to relinquish the ball after the first inning, having allowed one run off one hit, two walks and a hit batter. He saw some improvement as his stay went on and eventually got his shot with Chicago on July 30. He was 1-2 with a 4.03 ERA through five games with Iowa prior to the promotion.
Taking the ball against Milwaukee in Game 2 of a double-header, Arrieta threw 6.0 one-run innings, though he took a no-decision as the Cubs fell 3-2. Arrieta returned to Iowa the following day.
The righty made two more starts for the I-Cubs, going 1-0 with two earned runs and 14 strikeouts over 8.0 innings. He was back in Chicago by August 16 and from there, began to make his name as an ace.
After a brief stay on the disabled list to begin the 2014 season, Arrieta was inserted into the Cubs' rotation in early May and ended with 10 wins - the most of any Cubs' pitcher - and a 2.53 ERA through 25 starts. Chicago proved to be good for him.
As many already know, Arrieta was even better in 2015. On his way to the N.L. Cy Young Award, Arrieta pitched to a 22-6 record with a 1.77 ERA. He spun four complete games and added a no-hitter on August 30 against the Dodgers. His 0.75 ERA in 15 starts following the All-Star break set a modern-day baseball record. It certainly was a season to remember.
Arrieta wasn't able to duplicate those numbers in 2016, but his 18-8 record in 31 starts was a huge factor in Chicago's title run. The 30-year-old still finished 10th in the National League in ERA (3.10), was first in fewest hits per nine innings (6.294), tied for eighth in innings pitched (197.1), was eighth in strikeouts (190) and 10th in strikeouts per nine innings (8.666). Arrieta got the ball four times in the 2016 postseason and came through with a 3.63 ERA (9ER/22.1IP) to help secure the trophy for Chicago.
Since joining the Cubs, Arrieta has helped the team to a 65-33 record in his starts and has collected a 54-21 mark himself with a brilliant 2.88 ERA and 630 strikeouts. The righty was arbitration eligible this off-season and recently negotiated a one-year contract worth over $15.6 million. He will become a free agent in 2018.