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Sports Authority

Arrieta as Good as Anyone Right Now

| Thursday, September 3, 2015

On Sunday night, Chicago Cubs’ ace Jake Arrieta became the sixth pitcher to throw a no-hitter in 2015, following the efforts of Cole Hamels, Max Scherzer, Chris Heston, Mike Fiers and Hisashi Iwakuma earlier this season. In his domination of the Los Angeles Dodgers (the second time the club had been no-hit in a span of ten days), Arrieta struck out twelve hitters and allowed just two baserunners — one of which reached on an error.

To any baseball devotee, Arrieta’s no-hitter Sunday night against Los Angeles should not have caused even remote consternation. On top of flirting with multiple other no-hit bids in the recent past, Arrieta has simply been automatic on the mound for the Cubs as of late. However, common baseball fans might just be learning who Jake Arrieta is. When it comes to name recognition, his popularity is decidedly not on par with the fame of Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and other notable aces across the league, but his performance certainly has been. And while Sunday’s no-hit accomplishment will likely boost his reputation, it was definitely not necessary proving Arrieta’s among the best pitchers in the National League and Major League Baseball overall right now.

In what has become one of the more lopsided trades in recent history, Arrieta came to Chicago in 2013 from the Baltimore Orioles in an exchange that gave the Orioles a mid-season rental in consistently mediocre starter Scott Feldman. After the change of scenery, Arrieta transformed as a pitcher. In his first full season with the Cubs last year, Arrieta had a 2.53 ERA and finished 10-5, an undeniably impressive record for a starter on a last-place team that lost its division by 17 games.

As the Cubs have emerged as contenders this year, Arrieta has proven his 2014 season was no fluke. Upon beating the Dodgers on Sunday, Arrieta became the league-leader in wins (with 17) and currently boasts a minuscule ERA of 2.11. When August ended Tuesday, Arrieta’s came out with a 6-0 record and an even more microscopic 0.43 ERA on the month. Another fun fact: Arrieta’s personal home run total (one) is identical to the number he has given up going back to mid-June.

Sure, Arrieta’s body of work is apocryphal in a sense; his two-plus superb seasons in Chicago follow parts of four seasons in Baltimore where he was statistically one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball. His zero career all-star appearances are three fewer than reviled teammate Starlin Castro, who is four years younger than Arrieta. But at 29-years-old and entering his prime, I would still be inclined to put Arrieta in the same category moving forward as even the most elite pitchers in the league.

I am not just making this argument because I am die-hard Cubs fan passionately enthralled in their return to relevancy after an utterly arduous half-decade rebuilding process. Jake Arrieta has earned elite classification with his performance that continues to escalate as Cubs’ games become increasingly meaningful down the stretch. He isn’t just his team’s best pitcher, or the guy who the Cubs will start in place of $155 million-dollar signing Jon Lester if they find themselves in a one-game playoff scenario, but a pitcher as good as anyone in the league right now who — should Zach Greinke’s ERA decide to magnify itself at all in the upcoming weeks — might just be a Cy Young Award Winner a few months from now.

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