Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Is Cubs’ Arrieta too good to lose?

Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole goes against the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in Wednesday’s National League wild-card game at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole goes against the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in Wednesday’s National League wild-card game at PNC Park.

Right-hander Gerrit Cole of the Pittsburgh Pirates is a beast. He was 19-8 this season for the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 2.60 ERA.

He’ll be pitching in front of his home fans Wednesday night in the National League wild-card game against the Chicago Cubs. It will be a raucous atmosphere as the Pirates play in their third straight wild-card game.

Cole, 25, has a tremendous fastball and wipe-out secondary pitches.

Yet he nor the Pirates have much of a chance in this game. That’s because Jake Arrieta is pitching for the Cubs and Arrieta is nearly unhittable.

Arrieta was 34-32 in his career with a 4.52 ERA going into this season. He showed signs of pulling things together for the Cubs in 2014, when he was 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA.

But there was no indication that Arrieta was about to become Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Walter Johnson and Cy Young.

This season, Arrieta was 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA. But it’s what the 29-year-old right-hander has done lately that is truly creepy. And intimidating.

Since the All-Star break, Arrieta is 12-1 with an 0.75 ERA. And it gets crazier. Since Aug. 1 he’s 11-0 and has given up four earned runs in 88.1 innings. That’s an 0.41 ERA if your brain allows you to compute ERAs that low.

Arrieta is 14-2 with a 1.51 ERA in night games. He’s 3-1 against the Pirates this season with an 0.75 ERA. In two starts at PNC Park against Pittsburgh, he’s 2-0 with an 0.82 ERA.

The Pirates are batting a less-than-robust .176 against Arrieta this season with one home run – it belongs to Pedro Alvarez – in 176 at-bats. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is 8 for 23 against Arrieta (.348), but no other Pirates regular is hitting above .235. And Pittsburgh’s slugging percentage against Arrieta is .222 – five doubles and Alvarez’s homer.

If you appreciate pitching, this is a game you cannot miss.

Cole, if he’s sharp, can be every bit as good as Arrieta. Although the ease with which the Cubs pitcher has been mowing down hitters for the past couple of months is eerie.

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