What Jake Arrieta has done over the past season-plus is just stupid. The Cubs have not lost a game he’s started since July 25th of last season, a run of 22 straight starts. Wins have fallen out of vogue as a legitimate measure of a pitcher’s worth, but there’s something to be said for a guy collecting nothing but W’s in his last 19 decisions. It’s almost as though the Cubs know they’re going to win the game before they even take the field.
More than that, Arrieta’s opponents seem to know they’re going to lose when he’s on the bump. Consider that in the reigning NL Cy Young’s nine starts this season, the Cubs have a +58 run differential. That’s higher than any team in baseball has for the whole season. Is that good? Hold on, let me check. Yep, it’s good.
Just look at the nastiness Arrieta unleashed on the hapless Conor Gillaspie, who knew he had no chance the moment he began to swing. The resignation on his face is almost enough to make you feel sorry for the guy.
It wasn’t just Gillaspie, either. Check out some more highlights from Friday’s big win, won’t you.
That bender he threw to Brandon Belt at the start of the clip was just wrong, as was the changeup he employed to get Marv the Wet Bandit looking. The very next batter was Brandon Crawford, who was unable to check his swing at a disappearing slider and was so demoralized that he didn’t even bother to argue the call.
Joe Panik’s at-bat in the 5th was an absolute clinic on how to mix pitches, though few human beings can execute like Arrieta. The first pitch was a curve that rolled up at 80 mph and went for a called strike. Then Arrieta dialed a fastball up at 95 and got a swing-and-miss. He followed that up with another curve, again in the low 80’s, that Panik could only flail at fruitlessly.
Arrieta’s last pitch on the evening was 94 mph four-seamer that Angel Pagan foul-tipped into Miguel Montero’s glove. It was another masterful performance by Arrieta, who would probably tell you that he didn’t even have his best stuff working. That’s scary.
But Arrieta was only one side of the story. After all, you don’t get a big run differential by winning 1-0 every time out. The Cubs added 7 surplus runs Saturday, one of which came off the bat of Ben Zobrist. Zo’s big fly was only the 105th to make the water in the 16-plus year history of AT&T Park and it got me looking into some fun facts about splash hits.
Zobrist became only the second Cub to get a ball wet, but 7 of the first 8 splash hits by Giants opponents came off the bats of former North Siders. Corey Patterson is the only other Cub to make it to the water and he joins Todd Hundley (first visitor to do it), Luis Gonzalez (2), Mark Grace, Hee Seop Choi, and Cliff Floyd in that elite group of soaked sluggers.
Miguel Montero is the only other current Cub who’s put a ball in the Cove, though his shot came with the D-backs in 2009. Former Cub Dioner Navarro tallied a splash hit as a member of the Dodgers in 2011. Want another fun fact? Three former Cubs have collected splash hits as members of the Giants: Michael Tucker (5/30/04 and 4/9/05), Nate Schierholtz (7/8/11), and Tyler Colvin (5/12/14). Pretty obscure, huh?
Here are a few more factoids I unearthed in my research:
- Barry Bonds (35) has most the splash hits
- Pablo Sandoval (7) has the second-most
- No RHH has ever splashed down
- 45 splash hits from players who throw right
- Of 11 switch-hitters w/ splash hits, only one (Lance Berkman) threw left
- 27 splash hits from players who throw R/bat L
- 23 of Giants’ 33 non-Bonds splash hits from guys who throw R
- 15 splash hits from NL West
- 11 splash hits from NL East
- 8 splash hits from NL Central
I love stuff like that. In closing, I’d like to pose a question. Well, a pair of questions, really. Will a right-handed hitter ever get a splash hit? If so, who? Giancarlo Stanton’s got the power, but he only goes oppo about 20% of the time. Then there’s the fact that most righties are going to hit into the gap in right-center, which is the deepest part of the part at AT&T. David Wright actually has a nice combo of power and the ability to go to right, but he’s aging and doesn’t get many opportunities.
Addison Russell actually has a nice profile, but he’s got the same problems as Wright. Mike Trout is probably a better bet than either, but has even fewer opportunities. So who do you think could do it?