It’s official. After spending the first two weeks of the 2022 MLB season on the sidelines, former pitcher Jake Arrieta is calling it quits. The once dominant strike thrower announced his retirement on Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take, saying, “I haven’t signed the papers, man, but I’m done. It’s time for me to step away from the game. At some point the uniform goes to somebody else and it’s just my time, really.”
If you glanced at Arrieta’s career stats, you might not be all that impressed. A career WAR of 22.8, ERA of 3.98 and win-loss record of 115-93 isn’t Hall of Fame material. But Arrieta does own a certain accolade no Hall of Famer can claim — the most awe-inspiring stretch of pitching in baseball history.
Let’s dive into the makings of a 30-game run that put Arrieta in the history books.
Where it All Began
In the midst of a rebuild, the Chicago Cubs flipped journeyman pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles for set up man Pedro Strop and former fifth round pick Jake Arrieta. At the time Feldman was boasting a 3.46 ERA on the season along with 1.14 WHIP. Although he provided some semblance of stability the Orioles were looking for in the second half of the season, no one could have foreseen the steep price they had just paid.
Arrieta brought his career 5.46 ERA at the time of the trade over to the northside of Chicago and quickly settled into the rotation. Work with Cubs’ pitching coach Chris Bosio immediately paid dividends as Arrieta posted a 3.66 ERA for the remainder of 2013 while lowering that number to 2.53 in 2014.
It was the start of something special. And 2015 marked the beginning.
Arrieta carried his momentum from 2014 into the following season, but it wasn’t until a few months into the campaign that things started to turn up. After putting up an ERA of 2.03 in April and 3.99 in May, Arrieta embarked on what is quite simply the best stretch of pitching the game of baseball has ever seen. From June 21, 2015 to June 5, 2016, Arrieta pitched:
- 2 no-hitters
- 5 complete games
- 227 innings
- Giving up 127 hits
- Just 30 earned runs
- And only 5 home runs
Up until that point, only two other pitchers ever had an ERA under 1.00 over a 29-game span — Bob Gibson in 1967-68 and Walter Johnson in 1913-14. It doesn’t stop there though. Arrieta’s second half ERA in 2015 was just 0.75, making it the best second-half ERA in history. The only other pitcher who came close was Bob Gibson and his 1.19 ERA in 1968. If you want to break it down even further, Arrieta was 11-0 with a 0.41 ERA from August 4th until the end of the season in 2015.
He also topped that off with a complete game shutout of the Pirates in the 2015 Wild Card game. Perhaps Joe Maddon said it best when commenting after the game, “To attempt to take Arrieta out of the game tonight would have been tantamount to taking Bob Gibson out of a playoff situation…I saw Mr. Gibson out there tonight.”
Leaving Behind a Legacy
Coming off a sparkling 2015, Arrieta threw his second no-hitter in April against Cincinnati. Ironically enough, his future manager David Ross played catcher. But while Arrieta was still very good in 2016 — ERA of 3.10 and WHIP of 1.084 — his torrid pace came to somewhat of a halt. In July of 2016 Arrieta’s ERA shot up to 4.88. He also went the entire month without recording a win.
True to his newly-built reputation, however, Arrieta did show up in the playoffs, giving up just 9 earned runs in 22.1 innings of work. The Cubs went on to break their 108-year drought thanks in large part to his contributions both on and off the field. Shortly after the Cubs parted ways with Arrieta in 2018, Theo Epstein praised Arrieta for his work ethic and determination saying, “None of us have rings without Jake Arrieta. He was as instrumental as anybody in the turnaround of this franchise. He helped lift the culture with the way he approached things. He won a ton of big games for us. We’re all huge fans of his.”
When it comes the record books, it’s easy for Arrieta to get lost in the shuffle. After all, he didn’t even have the best ERA in baseball in 2015. That belonged to Zack Greinke. And in 2016, he had just the third best ERA on the Cubs. Hedricks led the way at 2.13 while Lester followed with 2.44. But for that nearly year-long stretch, he was as good as they come. And those who were around to witness it might never see something like it again.