Now among the elite, what's next for Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta?
It's always fun to look back a year and see what the projections were for a team or a player. Here is what Baseball Prospectus had to say about Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta in its 2015 edition:
"(Arrieta) found consistency in his delivery (in 2014) and revived his career, posting numbers that, if prorated over a full season, would put him near the top of Cy Young ballots. Arrieta also seemed the most confident he's been in his major-league career, expecting success rather than hoping for it.
"The key to 2015 is health; if he can pitch a full season, Arrieta is primed to continue his ascent and emerge as one of the top arms in all of baseball."
Arrieta did that and more last year, going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and a WHIP of 0.86 on the way to the Cy Young Award, as he zoomed past the Dodgers' Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw with a historic second half.
After the all-star break, Arrieta had an ERA of 0.75, the lowest after the break since the All-Star Game was first played in 1933. Over his final 12 starts of last season, Arrieta was 11-0 with an ERA of 0.41.
"I joked with my buddies a few times, and I didn't really understand the magnitude of the second half I had until the season was kind of over," he said during the first days of spring training in Mesa, Arizona. "I looked at the numbers, and I was messing around with a few of my buddies, saying that I don't know if that second half ERA will ever be broken. You look at the guys like Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, some of these guys who had incredible seasons a long, long time ago."
In addition to the numbers that are well known, Arrieta had a groundball/flyball ratio of 2.47, the best of his career. According to FanGraphs, he threw his fastball 50.7 percent of the time and his nasty cutter/breaking ball 29.1 percent of the time.
Arrieta is a workout freak and a perfectionist. So can he improve on his historic 2015?
"It would be hard to say that I want my numbers to be better because so many of the numbers are outside of my control," he said. "I just think having a more solid process, and not that it wasn't solid before, just to make it better and continue to build on my routine and things that I wasn't necessarily fond of at times and maybe taking that away and implementing something different. But there's really not much that I look forward to changing. I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do to prepare and to get ready for the season.
"When the season is finally here, I have a really good idea of what I like to do between my starts. The finer details of the game: being better at holding runners, varying my looks and my times to the plate, those are big for me."
Arrieta, who opened as the Cubs' No. 2 starter behind Jon Lester last year, will be the opening-night starter for the Cubs on April 4 at Anaheim. He has many believers now.
"There was once a whiff of injury about him, but simplifying his mechanics when he came to Chicago seems to have helped him there, too," according to FanGraphs. "He's an ace in the prime of his career, there's no reason to think he won't once again be a top finisher come award season (this) year."
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