July 9, 2014
This is a story. A story about a pitcher. It will be told in pictures and sound, with some words interspersed.
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta recently flirted with no-hitters (and perfection) in back-to-back outings. Unsurprisingly, this drew him some well-deserved attention, including mine.
For one, his slider has emerged as a big weapon, giving him a third plus pitch. Power pitchers don't need to be fancy with their changeups, so Arrieta is a legitimate four-pitch threat.
From 2012 to 2013 to 2013, they move from meatballs, to higher meatballs, to arm-side heat.
The slutter shifts from a pitch he can bury glove side to one that he can move about the zone without losing the ability to bury it in the corner—but with even more proximity to the zone.
It looks to me like they are focusing on his transition out of max leg lift...isolating his spine angle to diminish the back-side lean (toward second base) during his stride, with an added emphasis on leading with the hip. He had a lot of the 2B-side lean during the stride phase in his 5/13 outing against STL, a game in which he elevated of ton of pitches. His balance was more stable in his next start, 5/22 at SD, and he had a more consistent pace to the plate. That lift-plus-stride timing was really volatile in the past, but he has found much better consistency over the past month, an element that is likely linked to both the improved balance and his ability to use the hip-lead to iron out the timing as he shifts the gears of momentum.
What better source than the man himself? Here are Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette chatting with Arrieta on SXM. The main improvements, according to him: level shoulders, and leg down before moving to plate. In short, avoiding the cross-fire delivery.
Here is a look at Arrieta's first delivery in two different Wrigely Field outings, starting with his Cubs debut and ending with a start that came well after the side session with Bosio.
My read? No difference stands out. It's just one delivery apiece and, as Doug noted, these changes are about repeating the delivery. Subtle changes occurred, but no major overhaul. Sometimes the magic touch is a gentle touch mixed with a bunch of hard work (also known as "practice"). Arrieta's inconsistencies have been mitigated by an increased awareness of the nuances of his mechanics, and he's now armed with not only great stuff, but some mental triggers to keep himself on track.