Jake Arrieta, not Clayton Kershaw, is currently baseball’s best pitcher

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

For at least the last five years, Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw has been considered the best pitcher in baseball, and for good reason. Kershaw is the proud owner of three Cy Young Awards (2011, 13-14) and an MVP award (2014), and led the majors in ERA for four consecutive seasons between 2011-14. Since his sophomore season in 2009, Kershaw has never finished a season with an ERA higher than 2.91 and has twice finished with a sub-2.00 ERA. It’s tough to beat that.

Yet Cubs right-hander Jake Arrietawho threw his second career no-hitter on Thursday — has been better, especially lately. As USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale points out, over Arrieta’s last 24 starts, he has an unfathomably low 0.86 ERA with a 20-1 record. And that one loss? It took a no-hitter to beat Arrieta! Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter at Wrigley Field on July 25, his final start with the Phillies before he was traded to the Rangers.

Using adjusted ERA (also known as ERA+) from Baseball Reference, Arrieta has actually been slightly better than Kershaw since the start of the 2014 season. Adjusted ERA accounts for park factors and the quality of the pitcher’s league. In this case, since the pitchers both pitch in the National League, that isn’t really a factor. According to ESPN’s park factors, Dodger Stadium has been more pitcher-friendly than Wrigley Field.

How does Arrieta do it? He uses a four-seam fastball and a cutter, accounting for nearly 80 percent of his pitches — 50 percent and 29 percent, respectively. Hitters find him very tough to square up, making “hard” contact — in the estimation of FanGraphs’ batted ball data — approximately 23 percent of the time, the second-lowest rate since the start of the 2014 season among 85 pitchers (min. 300 innings), behind Dallas Keuchel. 53 percent of balls put in play against Arrieta have been on the ground, the eighth-highest rate.

There’s been a lot of debate lately in which some have stated that Bryce Harper has overtaken Mike Trout for the title of best player in baseball. At least when it comes to pitchers, Arrieta might be the Harper to Kershaw’s Trout.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. He joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Biden supported Major League Baseball’s decision to pull this summer’s All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law that critics contend is too restrictive.