This morning’s Rundown featured a look at the Cubs’ overall rotation construction, with a focus on Jake Arrieta and his health. After I’d hit “Publish,” however, I realized that there were a couple more thoughts knocking around in my head and I wanted to take a little time to flesh those out and clarify them a little bit.
There are really two thought processes here, the first of which is that the Cubs are very concerned with the free-agent-to-be’s health and they’re hedging their bets by putting him at the back end. That could very well be the case, as we’ve seen Arrieta skip an actual start and a sim game since his abbreviated outing in St. Louis last week. He admitted afterwards that the hamstring was still an issue and that he’d altered his delivery as a compensatory measure.
Arrieta’s velocity in two starts following his activation from the DL was actually some of the best we’ve seen from him this season.
The aggregate results were less than great, though Arrieta’s velocity in two starts following his activation from the DL was actually some of the best we’ve seen from him this season. Without getting into the questionable merits of rushing him back to try to squeeze in three tune-up starts, it’s obvious that the training staff felt Arrieta was good to go. He no doubt agreed.
Throwing a bullpen session Wednesday means he’s healthy enough to work from a mound and, presumably, to drive off of that right leg. We don’t know exactly how close he was to max effort, but we do know that he was giving more than Max’s effort (since Scherzer didn’t throw his scheduled ‘pen). That’s good. Somewhat less good is going a full two weeks without facing live batters, though it’s not like he’ll have forgotten how to pitch in that time.
They might be hedging their bets by including John Lackey on the roster, saving him for the possibility of a piggyback role or full-on emergency start. Pushing Arrieta back to four gives him more time to heal and it gives the Cubs more time to pivot should it be necessary.
And given the options and the possible scenarios of Game 3 and 4 at Wrigley, you actually want the better of those two pitchers taking the latter.
That doesn’t really hold much water, though. We knew from his scheduled sim game that Arrieta wasn’t going to be going in Washington, same for Quintana. And both were scratched from that exhibition due to damp conditions, so it doesn’t say anything about Arrieta’s health. And given the options and the possible scenarios of Game 3 and 4 at Wrigley, you actually want the better of those two pitchers taking the latter.
Think about it: The Cubs have to expect at least a split in Washington, or at least that they’ll take one of the first three games in the series. It’s possible they drop the first two to turn Quintana’s start into an elimination game, but I can’t imagine they’re viewing it that way. Because of the nature of a five-game series, Game 4 is guaranteed to have the possibility of an elimination one way or the other.
Three men being ahead of him in the rotation is neither a death knell for Arrieta nor a sign that his health is still in question to any significant degree. I mean, those things could be true, but I don’t believe either is explicitly signaled by the order in which the starters will pitch.
Thousands of other little points could be made one way or the other, but I think I’ve summarized my thoughts about as well as possible for now. Ideally, Arrieta won’t pitch at all as the Cubs take the Nats down in a sweep. Though it would be pretty cool for him to take the bump and outduel Strasburg or Tanner Roark to win the series.
Thoughts of your own on Arrieta’s health and spot in the rotation you’d like to share?