Jake Arrieta is now one of the best pitchers in baseball, but it wasn’t always that way. Before finding his current tremendous success, Arrieta fumbled through his first several seasons in the major leagues. He had always been blessed with an amazing arm, yet he could never quite put it together. In his early years in the major leagues, he was plagued by ineffectiveness and a lack of confidence. What fueled his amazing turnaround?
Cy Young Award Winner
Last year, at the age of 29, Arrieta enjoyed his finest season as a professional baseball player. Over his last 15 starts, he had an astonishingly low 0.75 ERA, a feat unmatched in the history of professional baseball. He capped a 22-win season with his first National League Cy Young Award. Arrieta’s historic season eclipsed even that of Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, generally hailed as the greatest pitcher of his generation.
And Arrieta isn’t done. So far in 2016, he is 10-1 with a 1.86 ERA through 13 starts, and his Chicago Cubs are the best team in baseball with a league-leading record of 43-18. If Arrieta can lead the Cubs to their first World Series title in 107 years (the longest drought of any North American sports team in history), it will be the culmination of one of the most amazing individual stories in baseball.
Down and Out
Only a few years prior to his phenomenal 2015, however, Arrieta was widely considered one of, if not the worst starting pitcher in baseball. If online sports betting sites had offered odds on whether Arrieta would ever win a Cy Young Award, and a bettor had taken it, they might have bankrupted the casino – that’s how bad he was. In fact, during the 2013 season, Arrieta even considered retirement. Every day at the ballpark brought more and more frustration.
Midway through the 2013 season, Arrieta was traded from the Orioles to the Cubs. It was a much needed change of scenery. In Chicago, Arrieta was united with Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio, who encouraged him to be himself on the mound. After years of the Orioles coaching staff trying to change his pitching mechanics, Arrieta was allowed to pitch the way that made him feel comfortable. For for the rest of the season, Arrieta became a solid if unspectacular pitcher.
In a recent article for Sports Illustrated, Arrieta credits pilates, which he began doing regularly in 2013, with transforming his body and turning him into what his wife lovingly refers to as “The Beast.” He says pilates have helped him to control his body’s movements and balance. It has also helped him to easily replicate his delivery, which was a problem earlier in his career. Pilates helped to bring more flexibility and consistency to a supremely talented player.
As of today, Arrieta has turned his garage into a workout studio, and he now does pilates six days a week. Arrieta is so convinced by the effectiveness of pilates that he believes it is only a matter of time before every major league team encourages their players to incorporate them into their workout regimens. Also, in addition to his pilates work, Arrieta meditates regularly, and he has developed a detailed four day plan for in-season training between starts.
Now that Arrieta has figured it out, the sky is the limit for the foreseeable future. Adrian Gonzalez, the smooth-swinging first baseman from the Dodgers, believes that the only thing that could possibly slow Arrieta now is injury. Given his incredible work ethic and the attention he pays to his body, the chances of a catastrophic injury are slim. Arrieta should continue dominating major league hitters well into the future.