Baltimore Orioles: Why did Jake Arrieta bloom for the Cubs?


June 17, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (34) pitches in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

An enigma that vexed the Baltimore Orioles for multiple years was Jake Arrieta. He never really put it all together – showing stretches of brilliance, only to be followed by longer stretches of inability to hit his spots and get batters out.

Finally in July of 2013, the Orioles traded him to the Cubs along with Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. Since then, Arrieta has largely risen to achieve the level of pitching excellence the O’s hoped to receive.

In the portions of his up-and-down four years with the Orioles, he was 20-25 with a 5.64 ERA and WHIP of 1.472.  With the Cubs he is a combined 14-7 – yes, with the mighty Cubs!  This year in 156.2 innings over 25 starts he was 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA, even pitching in Wrigley Field (he started the season in May after some shoulder troubles). There were games where he was largely unhittable. His WHIP was 0.989!  That is a number you usually only see with one-inning relievers.

So, why in Chicago? And why not in Baltimore?

Clearly, Arrieta was a classic “need for a change of scenery” sort of player. The talent was never a question mark. He was probably the best pure athlete in the clubhouse for the Orioles. The others guys spoke of him as a total athletic stud.

I wanted to see him succeed in Baltimore so much! I rode that bandwagon for a long time. Looking back at my years of writings on Arrieta shows me to be all over the map. The hopes for him are seen in this preseason 2012 clip…

"(In January) Arrieta appears healthy and is solid and ready to achieve … (on 3/11/12) …  I am not surprised that his first outing went well and that the recovery from surgery is apparently successful. Jake could well be the ace of the team for a long time. That would not really astonish any serious O’s fan – we just needed to see it happen. When he is on with his stuff working, he is a top-of-the-line pitcher … (again on 3/19) … The early returns are sufficiently good. With Arrieta, I believe it was just a matter of getting over the surgery, and I think this guy will be pitching every fifth game for the Birds for a long time."

The opening day starter, he was 3-9 for the Orioles in 2012 with a 6.20 ERA.  By the time of the trade to the Cubs, I was ready to see him have a change of scenery, and I am pleased he has done well. In fact, after he beat the Orioles this past summer, I wrote …

"Jake Arrieta will forever stick in my mind as the proverbial poster boy for a player who needed a change in scenery. In Baltimore he was forever the very personification of nerves run amuck on the mound. He looked like he had PPTSD = Pitchers’ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder … which comes from living under threat of continuous shelling in war, which is essentially what happened to Arrieta whenever he pitched."

It sounds so “non-analytical” to simply say that his issues were from the neck up. But that is true. Seldom do I know anything accurately from the inside of the organization, but I do know this fact to be true that he was constantly encouraged to “trust his stuff.”

In a very detailed and excellent article last week on, the writer pretty much acknowledged this to be the situation …

"Turning the ship around on Arrieta was based less on a mechanical change and more so on the aforementioned consistency. Arrieta had stuck to a daily routine, and had decided to not think (or overthink) about his delivery/mechanics. Arrieta was quoted as saying “I think about it a little bit while I’m going through my bullpen routine, but after that it’s pretty much just execute and let the cards fall where they may. If I’m able to execute for the majority of the game, then I feel like I’ll put myself and my team in a position to come out on top more times than not.”"

The writer went on to say that this was actually the advice given to Arrieta by Showalter just the year before …

"What is interesting about that remark is that it was something pointed out by Orioles manager Buck Showalter just a year earlier. Showalter attributed Arrieta falling apart in games to his emotions."

The entire theme of dealing with the mental aspects of the game was well-known in Baltimore long before the trade of just over a year ago. In a September 2012 article by Dan Connelly, anticipating that Arrieta was going to rejoin the Orioles as a bullpen option for the pennant run that year, he wrote …

"… after a terrible outing against Triple-A Gwinnett on Aug. 7 … Arrieta stewed on Norfolk’s bus ride that night — “I had a long internal conversation with myself” — and then he picked up the phone the next morning and called sports psychologist Don Carman, who spent 10 years in the majors as a pitcher.They had worked together a few years ago, and Arrieta … felt he needed Carman’s perspective. Carman told him to simplify things, to clear his mind of expectations and pressures and just throw strikes.“I had so much clutter in my mind, I just had so many thoughts racing through my mind at one time that it was so hard for me to put all of that aside and just pitch,” Arrieta said. “You never know what it’s going to be that helps you click. But talking to Don was one of those things.”  More from Baltimore OriolesWhat other Baltimore Orioles Offseason Storylines will you be interested in seeing?Baltimore Orioles to Face Numerous Playoff Contenders Down the StretchBaltimore Orioles Showing Encouraging Signs During Recent WinsThe Baltimore Orioles and the Expanded September RosterOrioles Josh Rogers Expectations in his Major League DebutWell, I guess it turned out to be “one of those things” but not the final thing, because it never did work in Baltimore. But now it is working in Chicago. So, good for Arrieta. Wish it was here though!"

Honestly, the Baltimore Orioles are on the “positive side” of the ledger with these types of reclamation projects. I guess they can’t just win them all.