Results tagged ‘ Jake Arrieta ’
There is a well-known saying– unfortunately, I don’t know who first said it — that baseball should be fun. The saying is that “Umpires begin the game by saying ‘Play Ball!’, not ‘Work Ball!” In last night’s Tides 8-2 win over Columbus, the pitchers were working ball, not playing ball. If there was ever a game that could be described as laborious, last night’s game was it.
Pitchers who may not have overpowering stuff but nevertheless have moderate success by not walking batters and generating weak contact are sometimes described as “strike-throwers.” Norfolk starter Jake Arrieta isn’t a strike-thrower. He’s not someone like Carlos Marmol or David Hernandez, whose natural delivery is such that his pitches break unpredictably. Either Arrieta doesn’t see the strike zone accurately, or he’s aiming his pitches to not be in the strike zone, or (most likely in my mind) he’s sacrificing consistency and accuracy for increased velocity. Consequently, he throws a lot of pitches per batter and runs up a lot of two- and three- ball counts — 116 pitches for 26 batters in last night’s game. And, he gave up four walks and five hits, so he faced the 26 batters in 5 2/3 innings. With all the pitches and walks, it didn’t look like he was having fun and I wasn’t having much fun watching him.
However, Jake Arrieta wasn’t the worst or most frustrating pitcher of the game. That would go to Columbus relief pitcher Bryan Price, whose name sounds like a left wing for the Columbus Blue Jackets and who last night pitched like a left wing for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Tides had taken a 5-0 lead in the first off Columbus starter Eric Berger, but Berger settled down and kept the Tides from scoring in the second, third, and fourth. He walked the first two batters of the fifth inning, and Price was brought in to relieve. While pitching to L.J. Hoes, Price uncorked one of the wildest pitches I’ve ever seen — it bounced over the backscreen and into the seats, coming one or two rows short of the ice-cream kiosk on the concourse. Hoes then singled sharply up the middle, scoring the two runners. In the rest of the inning, Price uncorked two more wild pitches, walked two batters, and escaped when borderline 3-2 pitches to two batters were called strikes by a merciful home-plate umpire. Price then loaded the bases in his next inning, only to escape with no runs allowed.
I’m sure that every baseball player is working hard; with the exception of the occasional knuckleball pitcher, playing baseball is not easy. But sometimes the players make it seem effortless; other times, like last night, you can see the effort.
Is he a future star?
I may be in the minority, but I’m not boarding Jake Arrieta’s bandwagon. Arrieta was a highly-touted prospect after he signed an above-slot contract out of college; he shot through A and AA ball and reached Norfolk in mid-2009. He pitched unimpressively in 2009 but seemed much better in 2010; after twelve starts, he was called up to Baltimore and pitched superficially okay (6-6. 4.66 ERA).
But both in AAA and Baltimore Arrieta hasn’t been able to throw strikes consistently. In AAA, his BB/K ratio has been 67-142 and his K/IP ratio has been 142/165; in the majors, they’ve been 48-52 and 52-100. His AAA numbers aren’t outstanding and his major league numbers are bad. I’ve seen Arrieta pitch several times at Norfolk, and he just doesn’t have good control or command. I expect Arrieta to have occasional flashes of brilliance, but I also expect him to be a mediocre contributor over the long haul.
Baseball games are not children’s stories. Good does not always emerge victorious; the plucky underdog, coming back from long odds, does not always triumph.
Friday and Saturday, the Buffalo Bisons played the Norfolk Tides. In any work of fiction, the Bisons would be the bad guys. Their lineup is populated with the best players outside of the major leagues; standing at the plate, players like Mike Hessman, Valentino Pascucci, and Mike Jacobs resemble defensive tackles. In contrast, Tides Matt Angle, Paco Figueroa, and Blake Davis resemble middle-schoolers. The Bisons are the Gashouse Gorillas to the Tides’ Tea Totallers.
The Bisons jumped out to a 6-0 lead after the top half of the fourth. It would have been easy for the Tides to fold, but they battled against crafty control-pitcher Tobi Stoner. When overpowering right-handed relief pitcher Bobby Parnell — he of the 96-mile-an-hour fastball — came in the seventh, it didn’t look good. But the scrappy Tides pecked away at the physically dominating Parnell, and tied the game at 6.
In any work of baseball fiction, the Tides would complete the comeback, winning the game against overpowering odds and being an inspiration to us all. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a work of fiction. Relief pitcher Mike Hinckley loaded the bases and then walked Russ Adams on a 3-2 count. Cla Meredith came in; after a strikeout, Pascucci roped a bases-clearing double off the left-center-field wall. The final score ended up 11-6.
More proof of the unfairness of baseball was presented Saturday night. The Tides’ major-league partner, the Baltimore Orioles, ordered that the Tides not start Jake Arrieta, on the off-chance that they would want him as their thirteenth pitcher. So, naturally, Andy Mitchell, on about five minutes warmup, started and gave up seven runs in two innings. Once again, the Tides refused to give up. They fought back and closed to within one run at 8-7. And once again, their valiant effort went for naught, as the Bisons-Gorillas scored four runs in the ninth inning. Had they not done so, the Tides two runs in the ninth would have been enough for a win; as it is, the Bisons won 12-9.
Somewhere, there must be an underdog who climbed back from insurmountable odds to triumph. Somewhere, a Little Engine That Could is proving that he could not merely think he can, but proves that he really can. Somewhere, a Butler beats Duke. But there is no joy in Norfolk.