Previous programming note from Myles:
Now that the season is fast approaching, and I've started to get the itch to talk baseball again, I'm hoping to pick up the pace. Hopefully I can convince the other writers to do the same. I'm going to take a look at the 2017 Cubs, starting with the best players and taking a descending order. I'm just sorting by projected WAR (ZIPS).
Programming note from Berselius:
Don't gently suggest to me what to do.
I'm going to upend this and break the descending WAR thing since there already is a half-written Rizzo post sitting in drafts.
A moose once bit my sister
Jake Arrieta (SP)
In 2016: Jay Carrieta posted a 3.10 ERA and 3.52 FIP with a 23.9% strikeout rate and a 9.6% walk rate, good for 3.8 fWAR and 3.4 bWAR. He also pitched another no-hitter and won a silver slugger award on the strength of a eye-popping (for a pitcher) .262/.304/.415, with two home runs, worth an additional 0.9 WAR.
In 2017: ZiPS projects 8.95 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, a 3.02 ERA and 3.35 FIP, good or 4.0 fWAR.
Great but not elite?
Looking for an extension
Likely won't get it
2015 Jay Carrieta was one of the greatest pitchers that I've ever seen not named Pedro Martinez. 2016 Jake, well, he was still really good. But it's also a reminder of just how goddamn hard it is to pitch at that level. His stuff still has insane movement but just a small decline in his control over it led to a much more inconsistent season. He did throw a no-hitter early in the year, and even going into the playoffs I thought that he was the Cubs starter with the best odds to have the stars align and do it again. The only problem is that he also felt like the starter most likely to get lit up and get pulled by the second inning. It feels strange to criticize Arrieta because every team in baseball would kill to have him, but having seen so much of JAKE!!! in 2015 made it disappointing to see him have a start where he walked 2-4 guys and gave up two runs in six innings. The Cubs would love to keep this version of Arrieta around but it's clear to everyone involved that he is going to get paid by someone in free agency based off that 2015 season, while the McThoyers likely believe that 2016 Jake is closer to what one can expect going forward.
Pitch mix-wise he threw a lot more sinkers in 2016 and a lot less of his killer 2015 slider/slutter, probably because he had less of a handle on it. Looking at the numbers on brooks, it's not quite as bad as I thought – only about 4% more of them were thrown for balls. However batters got more wood on them when they swung, as the whiff rate dropped from 17% to 13%. If you look at his fangraphs pfX numbers, it's even more stark. In 2015 he had the best slider in baseball, worth 23 or so runs over the course of the season. In 2016 it was exactly average, though his fastball (sinker) was still one of the best pitches of its type. The velocity on all his pitches also dropped by 1mph or so.
As mentioned above, Jake's bat was a surprisingly underrated asset last year. I even got to see one of his home runs in person! /humblebrag. I'm actually kind of surprised he only had two.
If Jake has another solid year in 2017 he's going to need to add a Scrooge McDuck style money-bin to his house. I just don't think the Cubs will (or should) be the ones filling it.