The loss to the Pirates, the recent removal of Dusty Baker, and the upcoming free agency of Shin-Soo Choo has overshadowed Bronson Arroyo and his status with the Reds. It seems that if there is one player who never receives enough attention, it is him. But while the baseball world may not seem to realize that he is a free agent, there is no doubt that Walt Jocketty and his staff are very much aware of the 36 year-old starter’s expired contract.
Bronson Arroyo, with the exception of 2011, has been not only one of the Reds best starters, but one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball. He has not been a Cy Young candidate and he is not the ace of the Reds by any means. But the one thing that cannot be denied is his innings pitched per year. Since joining the Reds, he has thrown over 1600 innings and has averaged about 211.1 innings pitched per year. They have started to dip recently but throwing 202 innings each year of the past two seasons shows that despite the age, he still has his durability. He has managed to avoid the DL in his career which is something to be marveled at. Every year that he has pitched with the Reds, he has started at least 32 games and averaged 6-7 innings per start. This kind of reliability is something to be desired out of a starter in this day and age where there is at least one Tommy John surgery or one pitcher who is on a strict innings limit.
One of the things that allow Arroyo to be so durable is the fact that he does not waste his time out of the zone with his pitches. His goal is to go right at the hitters. This season, he was fifth in the majors in walks per nine with 1.51. During his tenure with the Reds (2006-2013), he has averaged 2.31 BB/9 which is good for 14th among pitchers who have thrown at least 1000 IP during that time frame. He seems to be trying to improve those numbers as his BB/9 has been 1.54 over the past two seasons. He indicates that he refuses to beat himself by giving up the free pass (which can help him out seeing as how does not strike out a lot of batters and he does tend to give up home runs).
Bronson Arroyo has made himself a very good pitcher due to great durability and his ability to change speeds when he pitches. Last season his fastball averaged 87 mph and his curveball averaged about 70 mph. The change of speeds helps him to keep most batters off balance because they have no idea what kind of speed is going to be released from his arm or what kind of arm slot the baseball is going to be thrown at. While watching a Reds game, one of the guests in the booth said that he would rather face a pitcher like Aroldis Chapman because he knows what speed and arm slot to expect most of the time. Chapman will throw his fastball about 85.4% of the time and his off-speed pitch (slider) about 14.6% of the time. Once the batter stands in the batter’s box, he can expect to see that heater for the majority of the time. Bronson Arroyo throws his fastball (or sinker) last season for 44.1% of the time. That is 55.9% of the time that he throws one of his 3 other off speed pitches that ranges anywhere from 70 mph to 77.6 mph.
Despite the fact that Arroyo is such a good pitcher, it is unlikely that he will return to the Reds. The Reds, I’m sure, would like nothing more than to have Bronson Arroyo return to their team. The problem is that the Reds are going to have a full rotation and none of the other pitchers are going to the bullpen any time soon. Tony Cingrani has emerged as a phenomenal young left-handed starter that has earned a starting spot. Homer Bailey and Mat Latos have proven to be durable aces that on their best day can match up with anyone and shut down the best of offenses even in Great American Ballpark. Mike Leake probably would have been sent to the bullpen to make room for Arroyo but because of the great bounce-back season that he had, he has re-solidified his spot in the rotation as well. Cueto could be an option to be sent to the bullpen because of his long list of injuries but it is true that when healthy, he is one of the best pitchers in the game. The Reds also have several very talented pitching prospects in the minors in Robert Stephenson, Daniel Corcino, and Nicholas Travieso who are just waiting for an excuse to be called up to the majors. And because of Arroyo’s proven track record it is almost a solid guarantee that he will not be sent to the bullpen.
If you take away anything from these past few paragraphs, it should be that Arroyo is a solid and dependable starter. Maybe on certain teams (I’m looking at you, Houston) he could be an ace but on most teams he will be a solid mid-bottom of the rotation starter for any team. His tendency to give up home runs could be cured in a more pitcher-friendly ballpark but it is unlikely that the problem will go away all together. He is a good pitcher who might get his 3 years, and 30+ million dollars somewhere but he will not find it in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is a mid-market team who is going to have to worry about signing up Homer Bailey, Mat Latos, and Tony Cingrani in the future and they have already spent a lot of money to keep Jay Bruce and Joey Votto locked up for the long haul. Their depth in pitchers allows them to look elsewhere for places on where to spend all of the money that they would have to spend in order to resign Arroyo. Perhaps they could use it to get La Russa out of retirement . . .
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