Jake Arrieta made his much-anticipated Phillies debut this afternoon against the Detroit Tigers at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. In two innings of work, the 32-year-old former Cy Young Award winner allowed two earned runs on three hits, while striking out two and walking none. The results were mixed, but there are several reasons to like what we saw from Arrieta this afternoon.
Let’s get into it.
Like many veteran pitchers making their first start of the spring, Arrieta clearly had an attack mentality and wanted to fill the strike zone early and often. He threw 22 of his 31 pitches for strikes and consistently sat in the low-90s with his fastball. He even topped out at 95 mph. Several pitches featured good run and his velocity was encouraging for a guy who missed almost a month of spring training and had not pitched in a Major League game since last October.
Let’s first talk about that attack mentality. He came after leadoff man JaCoby Jones with three consecutive fastballs, including this 93 mph two-seamer that resulted in a called third strike. The noise I made in this video sums up my thoughts on the pitch:
— Bob Wankel (@BobWankelCB) March 22, 2018
Arrieta actually caught more of the plate here than he probably would have liked, but he kept the ball in the lower-third to freeze Jones. It’s true that Arrieta’s average fastball velocity has dipped from 94.9 mph to 92.6 over the past three seasons, but it can still be an effective pitch if he’s able to keep down in the zone as he did here.
Arrieta also flashed a plus-curveball on a few occasions. After running a 2-2 count to the second batter he faced, Jeimer Candelario, Arrieta delivered a nasty hook with down and in action that caused the lefty to swing early and over top of the pitch. His ability to spin a breaking ball with this type of movement and execution is flat-out exciting.
Of course, Arrieta did run into a few bumps, but some of that was a product of bad luck. I don’t want to come across as an apologist because he was fat with some of his pitches, but the pitch on the Miguel Cabrera home run wasn’t as bad as the result indicates. Arrieta unsuccessfully tried to sneak a 2-1 fastball by Cabrera but left it just a bit up in the zone and given who was at the plate, the result was predictable:
Here’s Arrieta in the second inning allowing a double to José Iglesias:
Again, doubles are bad, but he locates the pitch properly. It’s also worth noting that Arrieta may have also run into some bad luck here. He should have had Iglesias struck out a couple of pitches earlier, but plate umpire Tom Hallion missed the call. He works Iglesias low and away with this curveball, but he does a good job of staying on it and ripping it to left field.
If you want example of a flat-out bad pitch, then it’s this one which resulted in a single for Christin Stewart:
Middle of the plate and belt high is a bad place to be. The result is almost never good for the pitcher and it wasn’t here, but it begs the question–what does it mean? Can we draw any meaningful conclusions by watching a veteran pitcher who is a bit behind schedule get in his first work of the spring? Probably not. There was some good and some bad. It was fun to watch Arrieta put on the uniform, get out there, and create some buzz. He gave us a glimpse of what the hype is about and for today, well, that’s the main takeaway from this perspective.