2016 NLCS: Dodgers’ Rich Hill, Cubs’ Jake Arrieta Share Comparable Journey To Major-League Success
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After a devastating loss to the Chicago Cubs in the opener of the National League Championship Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers bounced back with a win on Sunday behind a pair of dominant showings from Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen.

The pitching matchup for Game 3 at Dodger Stadium features starters who are on opposite ends of the spectrum in their respective careers. The Cubs send reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta to the mound in Game 3, while the Dodgers counter with Comeback Player of the Year candidate Rich Hill.

Arrieta is making his first appearance at Chavez Ravine since tossing a no-hitter there last season. It was a defining moment for Arrieta’s 2015 campaign as he finished the year with 22 wins, a 1.77 ERA and 2.35 FIP in 229 innings pitched.

Though he took a small step back in 2016, Arrieta still enjoyed a solid season. He threw his second career no-hitter in April and made his first NL All-Star team, while leading the league in hits per nine innings (6.3).

Hill, a one-time member of the Cubs nearly a decade ago, has rejuvenated his career over the last two seasons. He signed a contract last August with the Boston Red Sox and hasn’t looked back since.

In 29 innings, he posted a 1.55 ERA, 2.27 FIP and 0.66 WHIP with 36 strikeouts to just five walks. Because of that strong performance, the Oakland Athletics inked him to a contract for the 2016 season, where Hill continued his resurgence.

The lefty pitched to a 2.25 ERA in 76 innings with solid ratios all-around: 10.7 strikeouts, 6.2 hits and 0.2 home runs per nine innings. Hill credited his increased curveball usage for his newfound success.

A lengthy blister injury in July shortened his tenure with the Athletics, and he was eventually traded to the Dodgers on Aug. 1 along with fellow outfielder Josh Reddick.

Though Hill began his time with Los Angeles on the disabled list, he immediately made an impact when he returned. In 34.1 frames during the regular season, he posted a 1.83 ERA, 2.07 FIP and 0.79 WHIP.

The veteran southpaw nearly pitched a perfect game against the Miami Marlins in early September, but was removed after seven innings as a precaution for his previous blister issues.

Hill made two starts against the Washington Nationals during the NL Division series, but wasn’t as sharp as he was during the regular season. In seven innings combined, he yielded five earned runs and 15 baserunners, though he did punch out 13 batters (averaging 16.7 strikeouts per nine innings).

Prior to that series, Hill had made just one previous postseason start — back in 2007 as a member of the Cubs. He lasted just three innings in the outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks and was tabbed with a loss.

What’s unique about Arrieta and Hill is that they both struggled in the Majors for prolonged period of time before developing into frontline starting pitchers. The main difference, though, is that the Cubs’ righty solved his problems prior to entering the prime of his career.

After four underwhelming seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Arrieta was dealt to Chicago in 2013 and almost immediately saw improvement. Up until this season, his ERA steadily declined since joining the Cubs.

In Hill’s case, he’s pitched for eight different Major League clubs, in addition to spending time with an Independent League team in 2015. It wasn’t until the twilight of his career where he evolved into an ace-caliber pitcher.

Another key difference between the two is that Arrieta has remained healthy over the last three seasons — averaging 194 frames per year, while Hill just registered his first season with 100 innings since 2007.

As Hill and Arrieta prepare to face off on Tuesday, it’s worth remembering that both arms overcame adversity when first entering the league, and the long journey it took them to get where they are today.