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But other players might have experienced a hangover from the wbc, some evaluator

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ST. LOUIS -- Either Chicago Cubs manager 

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 Joe Maddon saw something the rest of us didn’t, or pitcher Jake Arrieta has struggled so much this year, that on a day in which he gave up "only" two home runs in six innings of work, it was actually seen as a step in the right direction. Or perhaps Maddon is simply trying to back his guy during a rough start to 2017. Arrieta's latest defeat dropped the Cubs to a game under .500 (18-19). “I thought Jake was outstanding,” Maddon said after the Cubs' 5-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. “I thought he had his best stuff all year.“The swings and misses, the pitches in the zone, the takes on their part. I thought he was outstanding, actually.” Maddon was half-right. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Arrieta had a season-low six swings-and-misses coinciding with a season-low 14.3 percent miss percentage. But his called Authentic Glenn Dorsey Youth Jersey strikes were up, as he threw a strike on 18 of 43 taken pitches. That was good for a season-high 42 percent called strike percentage. Does any of it really matter when his already high 5.35 ERA rose to 5.44? One long ball served was to Yadier Molina, who had one home run on the season coming into the game. The other home run was hit by Matt Carpenter, who was 0-for-28 off Arrieta in his career. Arrieta did have his good innings, as he only needed 85 pitches to get through six innings, so perhaps it’s something to build off of, but those home runs do count. “Probably some of the best stuff I featured this year,” Arrieta said. “Pretty good command, just a couple mistakes that I made were capitalized on by those guys.”Arrieta walked only one batter, but his seven hits given up continue a disturbing trend, as the opposition is currently hitting 100 points higher off him this year than last season. That used to be his bread and butter. Few bats squared him up, even if he was walking some hitters. And let’s not even compare Arrieta to 2015, when he was all-world on the way to winning the Cy Young Award. “Some bad luck, [some] mistakes they are taking advantage of,” Arrieta said. “Right now, it seems like the mistakes I’m making, they are not fouling them off or taking or swinging-and-missing. They’re making pretty solid contact. I’m going to continue to be aggressive. I’d like to not make any mistakes. The ones Authentic Larry Donnell Womens Jersey I’m making right now are being taken advantage of.” That seems like a little bit of a disconnect, as mistakes are supposed to be taken advantage of at the major league level. Of course, there are times when a pitcher can get away with a few, but when you consider Arrieta has given up eight home runs this year but didn’t give up his eighth until July 25 last season, where exactly is the bad luck there? They’re getting good wood on the ball. Simple as that. It’s not hard to find the difference in the righty. His velocity continues to hover around 92 mph, just as it did again on Sunday, though Maddon saw it differently. “I thought I saw more 93s,” he said. “I really did. I thought it was an uptick.” Again, maybe that’s the issue. If Maddon is pointing out 93 mph as kind of a good thing for Arrieta, then the bar has come way down. At his best, he was a crisp 95 or 96 mph in the zone. It’s been a while since we’ve seen that kind of stuff, as the 31-year-old hasn’t thrown a pitch at 95 mph or higher this season. Either way, the manager is sticking by his guy -- as he should -- but if this was as good as it gets for Arrieta, then that bar should stay way down by our knees from now on. “By far, for me, with my eyeballs, the best performance of the year for him,” Maddon said. An evaluator trailing the St. Louis Cardinals early last month was astonished by Yadier Molina's sluggishness, because he had seen how Molina led Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic -- the fist-pumping, the shouting, the inspired play. "He looks like a completely different guy," the evaluator said, noting how Molina wasn’t showing nearly as much of that at the outset of the regular season. "Very little energy." Similar observations have been made about other players who served in prominent roles in the WBC -- so much so, that it is now accepted as a reality by many folks in the game that some players have struggled because of their participation in spring training's great event. The vast majority of the comments are not meant to be complaints or whining about the WBC, but as loose conclusions based on the early regular-season play of some of the participants. Some players from the WBC, such as the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey and the Baltimore Orioles' Adam Jones, have performed well. Marcus Stroman is also off to a good start.

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