Mets can look at their own closer to prepare for Arrieta

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine if you had to face Jeurys Familia for seven innings a game. That is essentially what the Mets will be doing when they face Jake Arrieta in the cold at Citi Field tonight. The power sinker/slider arsenal that both pitchers feature is eerily similar.

Here is Arrieta’s profile via Brooks Baseball:

Jake Arrieta Player Card – Brooks Baseball

Pitch TypeUsageVelocityGB %BAA
Fourseam8%9546%0.286
Sinker43%9558%0.205
Change4%9063%0.100
Slider29%9152%0.188
Curve16%8162%0.121

 

And here is Familia’s profile also from Brooks Baseball:

Jeurys Familia Player Card – Brooks Baseball

Pitch TypeUsageVelocityGB %BAA
Fourseam10%9847%0.320
Sinker61%9763%0.211
Change1%910%1.000
Slider22%9050%0.155
Split7%9473%0.125

 

Arrieta’s sinker and slider actually have more downward movement that Familia’s, which has more run, but the outcome is similar for both pitchers – they keep their infielders busy. Their respective ground ball rates from Fangraphs (FanGraphs Pitching Leaders):

  • Arrieta 56.2% (5th among MLB starters)
  • Familia 58.3% (3rd among MLB closers)

Both pitchers throw everything hard with a consistent release point, which makes it difficult for hitters to differentiate their pitches before it’s on top of them. The fact that Arrieta is able to do it for seven innings a start is the reason he has a good chance to be the NL Cy Young winner.

Jake Arrieta was always viewed as a prospect with top shelf stuff, but control problems plagued him during his Baltimore Orioles tenure. He posted an ERA between 4.66 and 7.23 for the Orioles, giving up more than a hit per inning with a BB/9 rate of 4.0 (Baseball Reference).

When he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in July of 2013 along with Pedro Strop, it all turned around. Solid improvement began in the second half of that season and was followed by a top ten Cy Young finish in 2014. In 2015 Arrieta may snag that trophy.

It was not just a change of scenery that sparked the turnaround. Arrieta clearly harnessed his control, keeping his pitches down in the zone more consistently. According to Baseball Reference, Arrieta’s BB/9 has gone from 4.0 with Baltimore down to 1.9 with Chicago in 2015. Better control has also been a key to success for Familia, who had a BB/9 of 5.8 prior to 2015, when he lowered it to 2.2.

Along with the improved control, Arrieta changed his approach. He used to rely much more on his four-seam fastball, but has shifted to the power sinker and slider. Ironically, Familia basically made the same adjustment. The numbers from Brooks Baseball:

Arrietawith Orioleswith Cubs
Fourseam30%8%
Sinker31%43%
Slider16%30%
FamiliaPre-20152015
Fourseam34%10%
Sinker40%61%
Slider8%22%

 

In his first taste of postseason action, Arrieta hurled a complete game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card game, walking one and striking out eleven. He was more human against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLDS, but was still effective enough to be a winner. Those two wins come on top of a 22-6 regular season record (1.77 ERA, 0.865 WHIP).

Amongst Mets batters, Curtis Granderson has seen him the most. In 30 at-bats, Grandy has hit .333 with 3 home runs and a 1.149 OPS against Arrieta. Lucas Duda is 4-11 with three walks, Wilmer Flores 3-8 and Daniel Murphy 3-12.

Arrieta’s power game will not be fun to face in the chill at Citi Field tonight, something like trying to hit a bowling ball in a meat locker. Hopefully the Mets can continue to show the patience and timely hitting that has allowed them to scratch out wins against the top shelf pitching they have faced to this point.

It is the unwavering confidence of Mets hitters that is possibly their greatest asset in this postseason. There will be ugly swings and at-bats against pitchers like Jake Arrieta (and Jeurys Familia), so hitters will have to have especially short memories. If the Mets can scratch out a lead, their own overpowering ground ball machine waits in the bullpen to close it out.

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