The Rise of Jake Arrieta

The Rise of Jake Arrieta

On July 2, 2013, the Baltimore Orioles acquired Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Pedro Strop and a struggling pitcher named Jake Arrieta. At the time, Baltimore was seeking to bolster their starting rotation and the organization believed that Feldman would help their pitching woes.

It’s hard to believe now, but Arrieta was merely an afterthought back then. In 69 career appearances with the Orioles, Arrieta had gone just 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA and a 1.72 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 27-year old right-hander had once been considered a top prospect, but there were growing concerns about his control and velocity. In fact, from 2010-2012, Arrieta’s ERA was the fourth highest among all pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched.

Despite these struggles, Arrieta had actually been profitable for bettors. Although he posted a losing record (30-33), $100/game bettors would have earned $351 by taking Arrieta in every start. It’s also interesting to see that Arrieta closed as an underdog in roughly three-quarters of his starts, which helps to explain why on average he received just 35.5% of moneyline bets at our contributing sportsbooks.

Maybe it was the change of venue, maybe it was escaping the American League, and maybe it was something else entirely. Whatever the reason, Arrieta has been a completely different pitcher since being traded. In 75 starts with the Cubs, Arrieta has gone 41-13 with a 2.17 ERA and a 3.84 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Last season, Arrieta posted a 1.77 ERA with 236 strikeouts en route to his first career Cy Young.

As much as Cubs fans may love Arrieta’s incredible transformation, bettors may be even more appreciative. The Cubs have gone 52-23 (69.3%) with +20.33 units won when Arrieta takes the mound, which makes him the most profitable pitcher in our database over that stretch. This high level of success has transformed Arrieta into one of the most popular pitchers in the league.

The table below displays the record, units won, return on investment (ROI) and average moneyline betting percentage since Arrieta was acquired by the Cubs.

YearRecordUnits WonROIAvg Public Betting
20135-4+2.4126.8%35.4%
201415-10+5.8323.3%41.4%
201527-9+9.7627.1%64.1%
20165-0+2.3346.6%75.2%

In order to fully appreciate Arrieta’s metamorphosis, we examined all 138 of his career starts. The table below, which uses data from the historical archive that powers our Bet Labs software, displays the public betting and closing line for every game of Arrieta’s career.

DateOpponentOpposing SPPublic BettingMoneylineResult
4/28/2016Milwaukee BrewersT Jungmann78%-365Win
4/21/2016Cincinnati RedsB Finnegan76%-197Win
4/16/2016Colorado RockiesC Bergman74%-304Win
4/10/2016Arizona DiamondbacksS Miller81%-204Win
4/4/2016Los Angeles AngelsG Richards67%-137Win
10/18/2015New York MetsN Syndergaard73%-137Loss
10/12/2015St Louis CardinalsM Wacha59%-202Win
10/7/2015Pittsburgh PiratesG Cole63%-125Win
10/2/2015Milwaukee BrewersA Pena88%-235Win
9/27/2015Pittsburgh PiratesA Burnett56%-176Win
9/22/2015Milwaukee BrewersT Cravy77%-327Win
9/16/2015Pittsburgh PiratesA Burnett69%-138Win
9/11/2015Philadelphia PhilliesA Morgan76%-275Win
9/5/2015Arizona DiamondbacksR Ray79%-215Win
8/30/2015Los Angeles DodgersA Wood72%-125Win
8/25/2015San Francisco GiantsM Cain66%-140Win
8/20/2015Atlanta BravesM Foltynewicz77%-290Win
8/15/2015Chicago White SoxJ Quintana82%-116Win
8/9/2015San Francisco GiantsJ Peavy57%-162Win
8/4/2015Pittsburgh PiratesJ Happ66%-129Win
7/30/2015Milwaukee BrewersJ Nelson77%-136Win
7/25/2015Philadelphia PhilliesC Hamels76%-210Loss
7/19/2015Atlanta BravesS Miller68%-160Win
7/12/2015Chicago White SoxJ Quintana76%-165Win
7/7/2015St Louis CardinalsT Lyons67%-167Win
7/2/2015New York MetsJ deGrom49%106Win
6/26/2015St Louis CardinalsJ Lackey40%111Loss
6/21/2015Minnesota TwinsK Gibson68%-137Win
6/16/2015Cleveland IndiansT Bauer68%-141Loss
6/10/2015Detroit TigersS Greene59%-110Win
6/4/2015Washington NationalsG Gonzalez38%104Win
5/29/2015Kansas City RoyalsE Volquez35%-143Loss
5/23/2015Arizona DiamondbacksR De La Rosa74%-125Win
5/17/2015Pittsburgh PiratesA Burnett51%-140Loss
5/12/2015New York MetsN Syndergaard56%-143Win
5/7/2015St Louis CardinalsJ Lackey49%107Loss
5/2/2015Milwaukee BrewersM Fiers80%-175Loss
4/26/2015Cincinnati RedsA DeSclafani54%-116Win
4/20/2015Pittsburgh PiratesA Burnett51%-105Win
4/14/2015Cincinnati RedsA DeSclafani62%-143Loss
4/8/2015St Louis CardinalsL Lynn51%-114Win
9/24/2014St Louis CardinalsJ Lackey48%-105Win
9/16/2014Cincinnati RedsJ Cueto27%104Win
9/9/2014Toronto Blue JaysM Buehrle34%127Loss
9/2/2014Milwaukee BrewersY Gallardo36%-102Win
8/28/2014Cincinnati RedsD Axelrod61%-104Loss
8/22/2014Baltimore OriolesK Gausman23%-107Win
8/17/2014New York MetsR Montero78%-111Win
8/11/2014Milwaukee BrewersY Gallardo31%100Loss
8/6/2014Colorado RockiesJ Lyles72%-124Loss
7/31/2014Colorado RockiesP Hernandez75%-200Win
7/26/2014St Louis CardinalsS Miller34%-128Loss
7/20/2014Arizona DiamondbacksJ Collmenter68%101Loss
7/11/2014Atlanta BravesA Wood55%-104Win
7/6/2014Washington NationalsJ Zimmermann36%161Loss
6/30/2014Boston Red SoxJ Peavy40%146Win
6/24/2014Cincinnati RedsH Bailey29%107Win
6/18/2014Miami MarlinsN Eovaldi39%112Win
6/13/2014Philadelphia PhilliesR Hernandez48%-104Win
6/8/2014Miami MarlinsH Alvarez29%-104Loss
6/3/2014New York MetsZ Wheeler36%-108Win
5/27/2014San Francisco GiantsT Hudson21%155Loss
5/22/2014San Diego PadresE Stults47%128Win
5/13/2014St Louis CardinalsA Wainwright22%206Loss
5/8/2014Chicago White SoxS Carroll31%109Win
5/3/2014St Louis CardinalsM Wacha15%165Win
9/25/2013Pittsburgh PiratesF Liriano24%153Win
9/19/2013Milwaukee BrewersK Lohse27%133Win
9/13/2013Pittsburgh PiratesC Morton18%156Win
9/7/2013Milwaukee BrewersJ Hellweg72%-142Loss
9/1/2013Philadelphia PhilliesK Kendrick34%-126Win
8/26/2013Los Angeles DodgersZ Greinke16%232Loss
8/21/2013Washington NationalsR Ohlendorf40%-108Loss
8/16/2013St Louis CardinalsJ Westbrook20%120Win
7/30/2013*Milwaukee BrewersT Thornburg68%-130Loss
6/17/2013Detroit TigersM Scherzer34%170Loss
4/21/2013Los Angeles DodgersS Fife59%-128Loss
4/16/2013Tampa Bay RaysR Hernandez76%-120Win
4/10/2013Boston Red SoxR Dempster42%131Win
4/5/2013Minnesota TwinsL Hendriks81%-148Win
7/5/2012Los Angeles AngelsG Richards23%129Loss
6/29/2012Cleveland IndiansD Lowe56%-139Win
6/24/2012Washington NationalsR Detwiler43%-126Win
6/18/2012New York MetsR Dickey32%143Loss
6/13/2012Pittsburgh PiratesK Correia56%-145Win
6/8/2012Philadelphia PhilliesJ Blanton53%-122Loss
6/3/2012Tampa Bay RaysM Moore28%151Loss
5/29/2012Toronto Blue JaysR Romero33%125Loss
5/23/2012Boston Red SoxD Bard46%-113Loss
5/18/2012Washington NationalsE Jackson47%105Win
5/13/2012Tampa Bay RaysJ Shields25%111Loss
5/8/2012Texas RangersN Feliz32%-102Loss
5/2/2012New York YankeesI Nova21%155Win
4/27/2012Oakland AthleticsB McCarthy72%-119Loss
4/21/2012Los Angeles AngelsJ Weaver20%161Loss
4/16/2012Chicago White SoxP Humber47%105Win
4/11/2012New York YankeesC Sabathia26%163Loss
4/6/2012Minnesota TwinsC Pavano44%-116Win
7/31/2011New York YankeesF Garcia20%185Loss
7/26/2011Toronto Blue JaysB Morrow20%160Win
7/20/2011Boston Red SoxA Miller12%112Loss
7/15/2011Cleveland IndiansJ Tomlin29%-101Loss
7/7/2011Boston Red SoxA Miller16%144Loss
7/2/2011Atlanta BravesT Hudson28%145Loss
6/20/2011Pittsburgh PiratesC Morton38%-102Win
6/15/2011Toronto Blue JaysR Romero45%141Loss
6/10/2011Tampa Bay RaysJ Hellickson30%108Win
6/4/2011Toronto Blue JaysR Romero27%109Win
5/30/2011Seattle MarinersD Fister28%106Loss
5/25/2011Kansas City RoyalsL Hochevar57%-145Win
5/20/2011Washington NationalsJ Marquis52%-145Loss
5/15/2011Tampa Bay RaysA Sonnanstine39%110Win
5/10/2011Seattle MarinersM Pineda52%-105Win
5/4/2011Kansas City RoyalsK Davies51%-109Win
4/29/2011Chicago White SoxJ Danks43%128Win
4/24/2011New York YankeesF Garcia29%121Loss
4/19/2011Minnesota TwinsC Pavano41%-113Win
4/14/2011New York YankeesP Hughes50%172Loss
4/9/2011Texas RangersM Harrison38%-103Loss
4/4/2011Detroit TigersR Porcello49%-118Win
9/14/2010Toronto Blue JaysS Hill50%-110Win
9/7/2010New York YankeesC Sabathia23%348Win
9/1/2010Boston Red SoxJ Lester22%196Loss
8/26/2010Chicago White SoxE Jackson19%176Loss
8/20/2010Texas RangersC Wilson23%172Loss
8/15/2010Tampa Bay RaysJ Hellickson22%219Loss
8/10/2010Cleveland IndiansJ Masterson43%129Win
8/5/2010Los Angeles AngelsD Haren16%163Win
7/30/2010Kansas City RoyalsS O'Sullivan26%121Loss
7/25/2010Minnesota TwinsK Slowey29%108Loss
7/20/2010Tampa Bay RaysM Garza14%173Win
7/11/2010Texas RangersC Wilson14%219Win
7/6/2010Detroit TigersA Galarraga21%169Loss
7/1/2010Oakland AthleticsT Cahill17%128Loss
6/25/2010Washington NationalsJ Martin40%109Win
6/20/2010San Diego PadresJ Garland23%146Loss
6/15/2010San Francisco GiantsJ Martinez25%138Win
6/10/2010New York YankeesA Burnett21%186Win

As you can see, the Cubs have won 20 of Arrieta’s last 21 starts dating back to last season with the lone loss coming in the playoffs against Noah Syndergaard and the Mets. It’s also interesting to see that Arrieta hasn’t been an underdog since July 2, 2015 when the Cubs closed +106 against Jacob deGrom and the Mets. Coincidentally, that’s also the last time that Arrieta received less than 50% of moneyline bets.

This string of phenomenal performances has turned every Arrieta start into must-watch baseball and has put oddsmakers in a very precarious position. In his last game, Arrieta closed -365 which made him the largest favorite since Clayton Kershaw (-375) faced the Phillies last July. Some books are trying to capitalize with unique prop bets.

After throwing a no-hitter against the Reds on April 21st, the Las Vegas based South Point sportsbook listed Arrieta at +500 to toss another no-no this season, with “no” listed at -700. Based on those odds, there’s a 14.29% implied probability that Arrieta will become the sixth pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters in a season.

Despite his rising popularity, Arrieta still isn’t the league’s most popular pitcher — that honor belongs to Clayton Kershaw. On his career, the three-time Cy Young winner has averaged 65.7% of moneyline bets. Since the start of the 2015 season, that number has been slightly higher at 69.2%.

Prior to the start of the 2015 season, Arrieta was listed at +4000 to win the Cy Young award — the same odds as second-tier pitchers like Julio Teheran and James Shields. Entering this season he had the second best odds (+700) of winning this prestigious award, trailing only Kershaw (+175). Based on the early results, anybody who took Arrieta at 7/1 is feeling very optimistic.

In five starts this season, the Cubs ace has gone 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA. Perhaps the most amazing statistic is that opposing batters are hitting just .151 against Arrieta, which is largely due to his filthy slider-cutter hybrid (sometimes known as a slutter). Arrieta’s stock has never been higher, which means this might be the optimal time to fade him.

At Sports Insights, our contrarian philosophy consistently finds value by going against the grain and taking unpopular stances. We recommend buying on bad news and selling on good news to capitalize on public perception. With Arrieta consistently receiving overwhelming public support, the Cubs lines have been extremely inflated every five days.

We wanted to know whether the oddsmakers were seeing similar trends and how public betting was affecting the opening lines, so we reached out to Scott Cooley, an Odds Consultant for Bookmaker.eu. “The Arrieta effect has certainly gained steamed over the past year,” according to Cooley. “Like the Yankees and Red Sox, the Cubs are one of our most ‘public’ baseball teams so we are usually going to shade their lines based on the action we expect to get on them. Arrieta’s success has compounded that further. He’s still not as much of a household name as Clayton Kershaw…but he’s getting to that level.”

Squares, or casual weekend warriors, consistently place wagers based heavily on recent results and they love taking the league’s “elite” teams. Oddsmakers can accurately anticipate the behavior of these bettors and shade their opening lines to force square bettors to take bad numbers when playing the popular side of a game. These shaded lines create additional value for opportunistic contrarian bettors.

We should note that historically it’s been a losing proposition to bet large favorites and large underdogs, which we explain in our 2016 MLB Betting Against the Public report. Although MLB favorites of at least -200 have won 69.4% of their games, that winning percentage isn’t high enough to cover the massive juice that most sportsbooks charge for big favorites.

Bookmaker, which is one of the market-setting sportsbooks, is charging 25 cents of juice on tonight’s Cubs/Pirates game (CHC -195, PIT +170). In contrast, they’re charging 10 cents juice on smaller favorites (i.e. DET -129, CLE +119). The juice is oftentimes prohibitive on large underdogs, which is why we have avoided them in our last three betting against systems.

We don’t recommend blindly betting against Jake Arrieta in every start, but the public’s infatuation with the red-hot 30-year-old has created artificially inflated lines. There are several additional criteria that bettors should examine before placing a wager:

  1. Underdogs have performed exceptionally well in games with high totals.
  2. The ideal moneyline range has been underdogs of +150 or less.
  3. Home-field advantage has been historically undervalued by baseball bettors.
  4. Teams with a winning percentage of greater than 60% have been vastly overvalued.
  5. Sportsbook Insider Pro subscribers can track sharp money indicators like reverse line movement and steam moves.

Bettors can also track the latest odds and public betting trends by visiting our free MLB odds page. Looking to create your own data-driven betting systems? Sign up for a free Bet Labs account and create up to five systems.

Have any questions for the staff at Sports Insights? Utilize our live chat to speak with a customer service representative or e-mail us at help@sportsinsights.com.


David Solar

David is the Content Manager at Sports Insights. He specializes in sports betting analytics and creating data-driven betting systems.

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