If a 2020 season ever does get underway in Major League Baseball, few players will have more of an impact on the ultimate success or failure of the Philadelphia Phillies than starting pitcher Jake Arrieta.
It can be argued that a shorter season might actually benefit the 34-year-old veteran right-hander, who was fantastic for the Phillies over the first two months during each of his first two seasons in red pinstripes.
In 2018, Arrieta went 5-2 with a 2.16 ERA over his first 10 starts during April and May. He allowed just 48 hits over 58.1 innings during that stretch with a 40/19 K:BB ratio.
The 2019 season saw Arrieta go 5-4 over his first 11 starts through May 25. He allowed 65 hits over 70 innings with a 59/26 K:BB ratio during that opening stretch.
Put it all together, and Arrieta has pitched to a 10-6 record over those four opening months combined, allowing 113 hits over 128.1 innings across 21 starts. There is every chance that in a shortened 2020 season he would be making no more than that number, possibly including a postseason.
No matter how Arrieta pitches in what would be his 11th big-league season, he is certainly not going to be returning to the Phillies rotation next year. At least not with the club picking up the $22.5 million option it holds for both 2021 and 2022.
Getting the 2020 season underway and pitching well are both vital for Arrieta should he wish to continue his career in Major League Baseball with some team at age 35 in 2021.
“I’m 100 percent healthy, so that’s nice,” Arrieta said per Scott Lauber at The Inquirer as spring training got underway back in February. “Injuries are frustrating, but there’s really not a lot you can do with some of them. Had a normal offseason. Throwing progression was great and has continued to be really good and won’t miss a beat. Yeah, feel great.”
Arrieta went 2-1 and led the staff with 9.1 innings pitched in the 2020 Grapefruit League. He wasn’t exactly effective, allowing six hits and walking six while surrendering five earned runs across three starts. Still, he appeared healthy and was on track to be ready to go had the season opened normally.
Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler front the starting pitching rotation for the Phillies and should match-up well with any 1-2 combo they face. But with a questionable back-end of that rotation, a strong two or three months from Arrieta could make all the difference in an abbreviated 2020 playoff push.
I recently saw another site comment that Arrieta was among those Phillies players who could be traded at mid-season. Let’s get this out of the way with: There will be no traditional “mid-season” in 2020. Forget such normal baseball terminology and strategy. If the league does return, it will be in a sprint to the finish, and no team should be throwing in the towel early.
While we don’t need him to turn back the clock to his 2015 NL Cy Young Award winning campaign of 2015, Phillies fans will certainly be hoping to benefit from a last hurrah performance out of Arrieta’s right arm over however many games we might get this season.