CHICAGO -- Add the most recent National League player of the week to Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta's 2015 resume as the righty led the majors with 20 strikeouts and 16 innings for the week of Sept. 21-27. He also won his 20th and 21st games of the season without giving up a run.
Arrieta gave up four hits and one walk over two starts, perhaps vaulting him into the lead for the NL Cy Young award. Once thought to be a distant second or third in the running, an informal poll of several media members has him closing the gap or leading.
Of five baseball writers polled outside of Chicago after Sunday’s 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, three said they would vote for Arrieta if the season ended today, one said he “probably would,” and one was undecided. Arrieta is in a tight race with Los Angeles Dodgers stars Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.
Many in baseball continue to rave about Arrieta as he attempts produce the lowest ERA (0.80) in the second half of the season in the history of the game. He’s also thrown 40 2/3 scoreless innings at Wrigley Field, the longest stretch since the park opened.
“I told him when we got him, ‘your stuff is top 5 in all of baseball,’” former Cub Kerry Wood said Monday afternoon.
Wood tied a major league record striking out 20 in a game back in 1998. His “slurve” (curve/slider) is reminiscent of Arrieta’s slider/cutter, which starts over the plate then dips away from right-handers at the last second.
“My stuff was never that good,” Wood said smiling. “It’s impressive. “Everything is just working. He’s setting up hitters.”
Another former Cub at Wrigley Field on Monday was Kansas City Royals hitting coach Dale Sveum, Arrieta’s first manager when the team acquired him from the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. People around the Cubs saw something special even then.
“That was one of those things like ‘wow, how could someone give that up?’” Sveum said before the Cubs played the Royals. “We got something pretty special here.”
Sveum credits Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio for letting Arrieta "be himself", which the pitcher also cites as a reason for his success. His stuff was always good, but the Cubs brought out the best in him.
“Just letting this guy be an athlete not just mechanical,” Sveum said.
Arrieta was honored with his third Player of the Week award this season, having won previously for the weeks of July 6-12 and August 24-30. In recognition Arrieta will be awarded a watch courtesy of Game Time.