February 14, 2019
It’s mid-February, which means baseball things are happening — no, not the baseball things we’ve been waiting months for.
Pitchers and catchers reported to Clearwater on Wednesday, where reporters were told about some offseason surgery for Jake Arrieta:
Jake Arrieta had left knee surgery one month ago to clean up an issue with his meniscus. Expected to be ready for the season, according to Gabe Kapler.— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) February 13, 2019
On Thursday, the assembled media talked with some pitchers, Aaron Nola discussed his new contract, and Jake Arrieta discussed a nagging injury that might explain why he had a rough second half of the 2018 season:
Jake Arrieta said he pitched the second half of last season with a torn meniscus. He expects to be ready for the start of the season after having surgery last month.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) February 14, 2019
Interestingly, Phillies second-year manager Gabe Kapler said Thursday he didn’t know about Arrieta’s injury until last month, when the surgery took place:
Gabe Kapler said he didn't know Jake Arrieta had injured his left knee until January. Arrieta said he tweaked the knee in June. Kapler: "Jake’s a tough individual, so he’s not the kind of guy who’s going to let on that something’s bugging him b/c there’s a lot of pride there."— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) February 14, 2019
It’s kind of weird that Arrieta knew he was pitching with an injury and, apparently, Kapler didn’t know. Either that, or they both knew but neither knew the extent of the injury.
In any case, it sounds like Arrieta’s knee troubles began in June:
Jake Arrieta’s left knee flared in June. Despite saying he was able to pitch through it, he also attributed it as the reason for his late-season downturn. He has thrown 3-4 bullpens, putting him on pace with other pitchers, and is expecting to be ready for the season.— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) February 14, 2019
If we track back to mid-June — remember when the Phillies were 35-31 on June 14? — and look at Arrieta pre- and post-the middle of June, a pretty clear downturn takes place.
Through his first dozen starts, halfway through June, Arrieta had a 2.97 ERA and had nine outings with two or fewer earned runs. By the end of the year, his ERA ballooned to 3.96, including a 4.63 ERA over his final 19 starts, and he only had seven more outings with two or fewer earned runs in those 19 chances.
Elsewhere, opponents’ batting average leapt from .239 in the first 12 starts to .264 over the final 19. His strike percentage (65 percent) was actually two points better over those last 19 starts, but the dropoff in other arenas was still precipitous. A torn meniscus sounds about right for that kind of showing from a pitcher like Arrieta.
On the plus side, it sounds like Arrieta expects to be ready for the start of the season. The Phillies open the season March 28 against the Braves.