Jake Arrieta stood in front of reporters back on June 3 after the San Francisco Giants completed a disconcerting three-game sweep of the listless Phillies and forcefully expressed his disapproval of Gabe Kapler’s shifts and his team’s play:
We need some accountability all of the way around. Everybody. From top to bottom. If there is not, I’ll make sure there is.
When I heard his comments, I thought to myself, “Fuck yeah, Jake. Accountability. That needed to be said.”
At the time, Arrieta was 5-3 with a 2.66 ERA. The 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner and 2016 World Series champion had both the clout and stat line to speak his mind. He very much appeared worth every penny of the lucrative three-year, $75 million deal he signed back in March. With the Phillies playing like shit ahead of near month long stretch against elite competition, the time felt right for someone to give the team a verbal kick in the ass. But here’s the thing about being the guy who steps out in front of reporters to criticize his manager’s defensive tactics, or his teammates’ effort and execution: That guy better make sure he’s doing his job, or he’s going to open himself up to criticism.
Unfortunately for Arrieta, ever since those comments earlier this month he’s been a disaster. Over four subsequent starts, Arrieta has been tagged for 14 earned runs while posting a 1.63 WHIP in 19.2 innings of work. The Phillies lost four of his five starts in June, and while his defense and the eight unearned runs he allowed this month didn’t do him any favors, his 6.66 ERA during that span doesn’t absolve him of blame for such poor results. Those poor results continued tonight.
Arrieta had nothing over five uninspired inning in a game that was billed coming in as a premier pitcher’s duel, and that was apparent from his third pitch of the game that was mashed by Aaron Hicks 411 feet over the centerfield fence:
"I'M A BOSS" Aaron Hicks (probably)
Just like that, the Yankees take the lead 😎
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 26, 2018
Most of the capacity crowd hadn’t even sat down before the Phillies trailed, and it soon became obvious it wasn’t going to be their night with the Yankees’ Luis Severino dealing like this:
Luis Severino, Ridiculous 89mph Slider. 😳
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 26, 2018
And this, which was the fastest strikeout pitch delivered by a starting pitcher this season:
Luis Severino, 101mph Fastball. 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/JNqHvSJnVy
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 27, 2018
Things spiraled out of control for the Phillies in the fifth when Arrieta induced what looked like a bases-loaded, inning-ending double play off the bat of Didi Gregorius, but Cesar Hernandez delivered a poor flip to Scott Kingery, and then the flood gates predictably opened. Two batters later, Gleyber Torres turned around a 94 mph sinker that missed up in the zone for a two-run single, effectively ending the competitive phase of the game:
Like a good Gleyber, Torres delivers! pic.twitter.com/BQ5ziTdSaB
— Bronx Bomber Ball (@BronxBomberBall) June 26, 2018
While it was a brutal error by Hernandez, Arrieta’s inability to navigate around the miscue and limit the damage is both frustrating and unsettling. It would be easy to make it personal, rip into him for failing to back up his previously critical words, and suggest he take a look in the mirror. Admittedly, that was my initial thought, but that isn’t the actual issue here. His poor performance of late doesn’t make what he said a little more than three weeks ago any less true, or any less meaningful, and it most certainly isn’t suggestive of a lack of accountability on his part.
I don’t doubt that Arrieta very much wanted to pick up his teammate in that moment and deliver a big-time performance. I don’t question that he wanted to go pitch for pitch with Severino tonight, or that he’s upset he failed to do so. I’m sure he’s plenty disappointed with how tonight played out. That’s not the issue. Production is. It probably didn’t matter tonight – Arrieta would have needed to be near perfect to beat the Yankees – but as the calendar turns to July, the Phillies absolutely need more from Arrieta than “want to” and accountability. They need the guy they got over his first ten starts in April and May.