On July 2nd, 2013, the Orioles traded Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. With their eyes on the playoffs, the Orioles wanted to add a veteran presence to a struggling rotation and they figured that Scott Feldman could be that guy. He wasn’t.
With Feldman now in Houston and Clevenger in AAA Norfolk, the Orioles have nobody left on their Major League roster from this trade. The Cubs still have Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop on their Major League roster, and they’re both performing well. Before tonight, Arrieta was 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .185 BAA & 64 strikeouts in 57 innings pitched. Pedro Strop is 0-3 with a 3.08 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, .176 BAA & 30 strikeouts in 26.1 innings pitched.
This post however, will focus more on the season Arrieta has been having and how the Orioles are probably kicking themselves for trading him.
Dan Duquette hasn’t made that many bad moves in his time as the Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations (what a mouthful), and this was probably his worst. He resigned Adam Jones to keep him in Baltimore for a long time, he talked the Astros into taking L.J. Hoes and Josh Hader for Bud Norris, who is easily the Orioles best pitcher now, he gave Nelson Cruz $8 million when no other team wanted him, he traded for Joe Saunders who led the Orioles to two playoff game wins and several others.
The Arrieta trade at the time seemed logical; get a reliable veteran starter and a solid backup for Matt Wieters by sending two struggling pitchers to a struggling organization. After almost a year since that trade occured, it’s a completely different precedent. Jake Arrieta has now come close to a no hitter TWICE and Pedro Strop has become a reliable set up man in the Chicago bullpen.
It’s also unclear if Arrieta can keep up these kinds of starts but it does further the suspicion that a change of scenery is all a guy needs, or is it?
When the Orioles developed Arrieta through their Minor League system, they did not allow him to throw his cutter. This has been their philosophy with young pitchers since Dan Duquette took over and brought on Rick Peterson to help develop pitchers, such as Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. They believe that throwing the cutter makes their arm more prone to injury than any other pitch.
The thing with pitching is that almost every pitch can lead to an arm injury, whether it’s in the elbow or shoulder. Throwing a baseball is the most unnatural arm movement you can do and when you do it 100 times every five days, it’s even worse. If any pitch is detrimental to a young pitcher or any pitcher, it’s the slider. With the flick of the wrist that comes with throwing a slider, it’s using that ligament that gets damaged and needs Tommy John Surgery to get back to normal.
Nonetheless, with the Orioles not allowing Arrieta to throw his best pitch, they limited what he could have been as a starter for them. Even that limited talent was exception at times, but that’s not the only thing that comes to the table with pitching.
A big part of pitching and baseball as a whole is how you approach it mentally. If you have the wrong frame of mind, you can’t perform your best. Jake Arrieta is the perfect example of this. A young pitcher with the talent to be a number 2 or even a number 1 in a rotation, but had the wrong mindset when he approached his starts. Buck Showalter said “The thing he’s got to solve is the mental side of it.” when Arrieta was sent down to AAA Norfolk after a disastrous April, 2013 start for the Orioles.
Arrieta stated after that game that he had let previous instances of performing poorly get to him when he was pitching well. He also talked about anxiety and how he feels he creates it for himself, which can be a pitcher’s nightmare. Anxiety brought on by poor performance and thinking about your past poor performances can erase all of your talent so fast.
For Jake Arrieta’s sake, I hope he’s found a way to control his thoughts while pitching to let his stuff get hitters out and be the best pitcher he can be. As someone as promising as him, you can do nothing but root for him when this kind of stuff happens. Someone who has seen some of the lowest lows and is now experiencing some of the higher highs that come with playing baseball deserves all the support he can get, and he definitely has it from me.