By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta’s dominant pitching has been easy to see over the past two seasons, as his composite 27-11 records with a 2.31 ERA speaks volumes about his pitching prowess.
The less subtle aspect of his ability is the leadership quality he brings to his club.
In early 2014, pitching coach Chris Bosio challenged the sporadic Arrieta to become more than just a confident starter on his day to pitch. Bosio asked Arrieta to look at himself as not just a pitcher on a five-day rotation but as a leader who helps his teammates beyond his baseball duties on the mound.
To his credit, Arrieta took the ball and ran with the idea that he was much more than just another guy on a 25-man roster. After pitching a no-hitter on Sunday night against the Dodgers, Arrieta has had a difficult time putting the culmination of his hard work into perspective. One only needs to look at the 8-1 record he has after Cubs losses to understand the impact he has had on the 2015 team.
Leadership starts with being the man responsible for ending a losing streak.
“You’re right about that,” said Arrieta, who is 17-6 with a 2.11 ERA this season. “I believe there are a lot of different ways to lead. Leading by example is one of the most important ways. Verbal leadership is extremely important, which I intend to provide and I try to provide for everybody. Regardless who they are or what they have accomplished, I believe we all can use advice or words of wisdom. I try to (lead) both by verbal and example.”
Manager Joe Maddon has seen pitchers who were leaders in the past, and he knows the traits one must sport to do so.
“I have had a couple,” he said. “Chuck Finley definitely stood out. If you are going to be a leader as a starting pitcher, you must be in the dugout all of the time. You must show that kind of support all of the time, even if you’re not pitching. David Price had a lot of that in him as well. I have had that guy. Performance certainly matters, but I think it goes well beyond hitting .300 or winning 20 games. It’s about how you interact with your teammates when you’re not playing. All the players recognize that guy who stays on the bench even when he is not pitching.”
MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo believes Arrieta does lead by example.
“Jake has done a great job of being ready every fifth day,” Rizzo said. “The numbers speak for themselves. He has really turned the whole thing up to another level this year.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.