Jake Arrieta was optioned to AAA Norfolk today. Typing that sentence hurt worse than wearing one of Jake’s 96 MPH fastballs in the kneecap. Those of you who have read my previous Birdland Bulletins know my gushing feelings for Jake Arrieta and his transcendent stuff on the mound.
While consistency has always eluded Arrieta, I refuse to give up on him because he has the stuff to be a top end pitcher. While his arm maybe worth millions of dollars, his worst enemy has always been between his ears. The hope is that another stay down on the farm in Norfolk will get Jake right, and help him iron out his mental mechanics. Hopefully Tides’ pitching coach Mike Griffin and Orioles Pitching Coordinator Rick Peterson can get Jake back on the fast track to dominating Major League hitters.
In order to do this, Arrieta may need to get back to basics while getting his mind right. Basics so elementary in fact, that we have banged out an ABC’s of list what Jake Arrieta may want to do in order to get back to the Big Leagues. Some of these are general observations and others are helpful tips.
You gotta attack the strike zone with strikes early and often.
B- BALL ONE
Avoid throwing ball one on the first pitch like Ryan Flaherty avoids making contact.
Arrieta’s lack of control has been his biggest weakness. He fails to command all of his pitches and thus finds himself in many 3-ball counts.
Arrieta will have innings where he will throw 12-13 pitches and be lights out. Then he will promptly follow that up with a 35 pitch walkfest the next inning. He must be consistent and piece together quality innings.
By all reports, this is not a problem for Arrieta. He was spotted in the video room today, even after receiving word that he was headed to Norfolk. His commitment and dedication is there, which leads me to believe he CAN GET RIGHT!
Execute your pitches! Know the count, know what pitch you want to throw and where you want to throw it.
Get back to having fun out there on the mound. Get back to playing the way you did when you were a kid. Pitch with that carefree dominance that you had as a Horned Frog at TCU. Block out all those negative thoughts in your head and let it fly!
Set attainable goals while you’re down in Norfolk. Once you reach these goals set new ones. Set ‘em, reach ‘em, and then get back to Birdland!
Arrieta’s heater can be his best weapon, and his biggest enemy. When he can’t throw it for strikes or leaves it up in the zone he gets pounded. Command the heater and pitch off of that.
Become a “pitcher” and not a “thrower.”
As in, the jury is still out on Arrieta. Is he a big league pitcher who can harness his overpowering stuff, or is he just another hard throwing flame-out who couldn’t command his pitches?
When he’s on, Arrieta racks up K’s like Antonio Cromartie racks up alimony bills. (That’s still funny right? RIGHT?!?)
L- LOVE OF THE GAME
If you haven’t already seen this Kevin Costner classic it’s worth the watch. But seriously, just like with FUN, Jake’s got to get back to his love of the game and why he plays.
Arrieta’s gun-slinging bravado that he takes to the rubber every game is what makes me believe he can iron out these mental struggles. He needs to maintain this moxie while he is down in AAA and come back to the Bigs with more swagger than John Wayne’s nutsack.
Block out the negativity whether it is internal or external. Mind over matter…if you don’t mind then it don’t matter!
Collect them like the number of Tom Selleck fans at a Mustache convention. It’s easier to get outs when the count is 1-2 or 0-2.
Keep your poise even if you start to feel your control leaking. Maintain your focus and your confidence. Be the calmest person in the ballpark.
Q- QUALITY STARTS
Better command leads to lower pitch counts and lower pitch counts lead to going deeper in games. Arrieta has been getting pulled in or after the 5th inning lately because he has already thrown 100-120 pitches.
Be relentless in your pursuit back to the Big Leagues. Be relentless in the way you attack hitters. Be relentless in your pursuit of greatness.
S- STRIKE ONE
YOUR BEST FRIEND. Get ahead and stay ahead. 0-1 is a much better count than 1-0.
Your mental toughness is what will get you back to the Big Leagues. It will also be your best friend when dealing with failure and frustrations.
U- UNEARNED RUNS
There will be plenty of these. Do not let them derail you and force you to lose focus. Control what you can control!
Visualize yourself throwing strikes and commanding all of your pitches. Visualize yourself getting groundball double plays. Visualize success.
Pitch like one. Act like one.
Arrieta’s off speed pitches are his X-Factor. Every professional hitter can handle 96 MPH, but when a pitcher couples that with knee buckling breaking balls and string-pulling change ups, he can be unhittable.
That is the only person preventing you from being an effective big league pitcher. Believe in yourself because there are still plenty of us in Birdland who still do!
FILL UP THE SCOREBOARD WITH ZEROS!
Get right down on the farm, Jake. There are still plenty of us in Birdland who still know you can be an integral part of the Orioles rotation this year and for years to come.