Phillies starter Jake Arrieta hit a home run on Sunday, but he was not a happy camper after his team suffered a sweep at the hands of the Giants in their weekend series in San Francisco. His home run broke the team’s scoreless streak after having been shut out in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. It was the only run the Phillies scored on Sunday, falling 6-1.
Arrieta didn’t have a great afternoon, yielding five runs on eight hits with no walks and four strikeouts. The big blow came when Arrieta surrendered an opposite-field three-run home run to Andrew McCutchen in the sixth inning, pushing the Giants’ lead to 5-1.
Per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Arrieta was furious after the game, describing the series as “horse s—.” Arrieta also took aim at the Phillies’ defensive shifts, saying, “We need to change that. Copy the best. That’s not my job.” He added that the club needs accountability “top to bottom.”
According to Sports Info Solutions, the Phillies indeed are dead last in runs saved from the shift at -11. The only other team that is in the negatives is the Dodgers.
Baseball Savant ranks the Phillies third in baseball in defensive shift usage at 28 percent, behind the Astros (43.2 percent) and Royals (36.4 percent). The Phillies shift around that same rate while Arrieta is on the mound (29 percent). The league average shift percentage is 17.3 percent.
While Arrieta may be right that the Phillies’ defensive shifting hasn’t paid off, he should also be concerned about his strikeout rate. After Sunday’s start, his 2018 strikeout rate sits at 17.2 percent, which would be the lowest rate of his career since his rookie season in 2010 (11.6 percent). Arrieta’s strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.32 is below the league average of 2.65, ranking 63rd out of 88 qualified pitchers. He has a 2.66 ERA but it’s almost certainly not sustainable if he’s not able to miss bats the way he had been from 2014-17. That’s going to be true whether or not the Phillies are shifting properly.