Fresh off one of the most remarkable pitching campaigns in recent memory, the Chicago Cubs announced Saturday they’ll be placing an innings limit on Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta in 2016.
Including the playoffs, Arrieta last year pitched an MLB-high 248.2 innings—92 more than his previous career mark in 2014—and the Cubs want to carefully watch his output this year given how significant a jump he made.
Arrieta, however, is content with the strategy, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, and instead of viewing it as a limitation, the righty believes it will create more opportunities for the bullpen, which last year ranked eighth with a collective 3.38 ERA:
Even if it means going six or seven innings through a certain amount of starts to let our big arms in the bullpen come in and do their thing and hand the ball to [closer Hector] Rondon or whoever is there to finish games, those games are much more important than for me to get eight or nine innings.
Arrieta had the best second half in baseball history, compiling a 0.75 ERA that catapulted him past favorite Zack Greinke for the National League Cy Young Award.
But Arrieta’s workload caught up with him in the playoffs, where he posted a ballooned ERA of 3.66 and allowed four earned runs each in consecutive games after going 21 straight starts without allowing that many.
The 29-year-old standout is arguably the most athletic pitcher in the game, but his previous injury history that kept him from eclipsing 200 innings for five seasons until breaking through last year gives the Cubs warranted concerns.
Arrieta was a dark horse for the Cy Young for most of last season, as not many outside Chicago knew of the hard-hurling right-hander compared to Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.
But the Cubs’ emerging ace began his march to elite during the 2014 campaign—albeit at a slow start.
Arrieta opened the first month of that season on the disabled list with shoulder stiffness, but he quietly anchored an impressive season for the last-place Cubs, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning three times.
He finally got over the mark and threw his first career no-no last August, as shown by MLB:
Last year Chicago won 97 games, third best in the majors, with what is supposed to be their worst team over the next three- to five-year stretch with the remarkably talented—but more chiefly, young—corps assembled by general manager Theo Epstein.
By placing an innings limit on their best player, who is signed only through this season but remains under club control through 2017, the Cubs are ensuring their top arm will be fresh come October.
And that’s perfectly fine with Arrieta.
"It looks good on paper, but a ring looks a little bit better at the end of November,” Arrieta said, per Gonzales.