Could it be the Year of Jacob?
The Cubs' Arrieta may be setting a trend for pitchers named Jake or Jacob who will break out in 2014.
One of the biggest surprises among starting pitchers this year has been Jake Arrieta, who has made dramatic across-the-board improvements in his strikeout, walk and ground ball rates on his way to a 4-1 record, 2.05 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Just a couple of months ago, most Fantasy owners would not have guessed that Arrieta would have become so relevant in such a wide swath of leagues.
While we know him as "Jake," his actual first name is Jacob, and that's something he shares with a couple of pitchers who have not been quite as dazzling this season. One is Jake Odorizzi, who is not only another "Jacob," but like his Cubs counterpart, he is showing the potential for a major breakout, even though he remains somewhat under the radar in standard mixed leagues (55 percent ownership rate, 29 percent activation rate). While Odorizzi has had his moments this season, he hasn't exactly busted out, sporting a 4.29 ERA and 1.29 WHIP as well as a game log that careens recklessly between superb and dismal performances.
The Rays' righty has already taken a huge step forward with a 10.5 K/9 ratio, but Odorizzi has been held back by a 3.5 BB/9 ratio. Not only can his owners hold out hope for improvement there, as he has shown better control during his prospect days, but he's been an apparent victim of bad luck. Even if Odorizzi doesn't improve his walk rate, he can have better results by reducing a ridiculously fluky .375 batting average allowed on grounders.
Then there's Jacob Turner, who has been the opposite of a breakout pitcher so far. He was so ineffective for the Marlins that he was demoted to the bullpen, but like the other Jacobs, he has shown some real signs of progress. Turner hasn't made any real strides as a strikeout pitcher, but he has reduced his BB/9 ratio from last season's 4.1 to 2.5 while increasing his ground ball rate from 48 to 55 percent.
As with Odorizzi, Turner's improvements have been obscured by bad luck on ground balls, as opponents have hit .312 against him on grounders. He has also stranded a mere 61 percent of his baserunners, but that number will surely rise as he piles up more innings. Turner may be in the bullpen for now, but it's not hard to imagine him reclaiming his spot from Anthony Desclafani in the not-too-distant future, and that's when we could see a breakout take hold.
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