UPDATE: Jake Arrieta’s no-hit bid was snapped with two outs in the eighth inning. After Arrieta struck out Mike Napoli looking and got Xander Bogaerts to fly out, Stephen Drew ripped a single to right field to give the Red Sox their first hit of the night. Arrieta, who threw a season-high 120 pitches, was quickly removed from the game to a nice ovation from the Fenway Park crowd.
No-hitter or not, it was a heck of an outing. Arrieta’s evolution continues to be fun to watch. The 28-year-old now has a 1.81 ERA and 74/16 K/BB ratio in 64 2/3 innings over 11 starts this season.
9:27 p.m. ET: Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta didn’t allow his first baserunner until the seventh inning last Tuesday night against the Reds and he’s flirting with history again tonight.
Arrieta has tossed seven no-hit innings tonight against the Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston. The only baserunner against him so far was a one-out walk to Mike Napoli in the fifth inning. He has struck out nine batters and thrown 103 pitches over his seven frames of work. For what it’s worth, his season-high is 105 pitches and his career-high is 114, so he’ll have to go into uncharted territory in order to finish this one off.
Coming into tonight’s outing, Arrieta had a 1.14 ERA and 38/5 K/BB ratio over five starts this month. He’s always had the ability, but he’s finally putting it all together.
“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.
Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:
Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?
There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.
As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.