The Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta is the most dominant pitcher in Major League Baseball right now. “Arrieta has thrown two no-hitters in a span of 11 regular-season starts and has gone 20-1 with an 0.86 earned-run average over a mind-numbing 24-start stretch.”
Prior to the Cubs, Arrieta was a disappointing pitcher with Baltimore. When he was acquired by the Cubs, players on the Cubs were disappointed and disgruntled. Nobody envisioned Arrieta becoming the most dominant starter in baseball.
What happened? He improved? Great coaching?
Before the deal, Arrieta and Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair weren’t on the same page. The Orioles were trying to get him to throw directly on line to the plate instead of his favored crossfire delivery. Their way felt uncomfortable to Arrieta.
When Arrieta was dealt to the Cubs, and sent to AAA Iowa, the Cubs’ staff allowed him to pitch how he felt comfortable. They did not try to change his technique.
In addition to not messing around with his technique, the change in environment helped.
“A change of scenery is the biggest thing to start with, and being surrounded by quality human beings from day one at Triple-A Iowa,” Arrieta said of his improvement.
There are many factors in talent development. The environment plays a key role, as does the confidence that a player feels because he or she is comfortable with his or her technique rather than attempting to fit someone else’s model. There are some things that are performance limiters and should be corrected, but others are personal style that fit a player’s body, style, approach, and more and should be left alone. Expert coaches are very good at deciphering between that which should be left alone because of personal style and that which should be changed to improve performance.