Reviewing the 2012 Reds season and statistics during this long and tiresome offseason dug up an interesting tidbit or two. Some insight gleaned from the numbers that can shed some more light onto what led to the (regular season) success of the Redlegs. My interest peaked on what led to the breakout or bounce back seasons for Reds starting pitchers that made up a suddenly dominant starting rotation. This post will be the first of three detailing How They Did What They Did in 2012. Today is Bronson Arroyo.
Bronson Arroyo bounced back from a 2011 that had him highlighted for little more than his affinity for allowing dingers to have his best season since 2010 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.21 WHIP with a 12-10 record (though a record is pretty much meaningless as a measure of pitcher performance). On the surface, it seemed that little had changed. No visible jump in velocity or movement. No addition of a new out pitch. Old dog Bronson really just seemed to be throwing up the same fastballs and loopy curves as he did in 2011 except it worked better. A closer check of pitch statistics reveals a change in approach resulted in Arroyo’s bounce back 2012.
Arroyo did his damage this past season by reducing walks (45 in 2011, 35 in 2012) and spotting more strikes (108 Ks in 2011, 129 Ks in 2012). The aforementioned change in approach also helped. In 2011, Arroyo threw mostly four seam type fastballs, totaling 29.7% of his overall pitches with sinkers being his next most popular pitch. Off the fastball, Arroyo allowed a .294 batting average against. In 2012, the use of the four seamer fell to his 5th most popular pitch at 8.3% of total pitches. Replacing those were two seamers and sinkers with more movement. Sinkers totaled 32.6% of total pitches in 2012 with an uptick in slider usage to 23.9% of total 2012 pitches. The slider also jumped a MPH in average velocity from 74.7 MPH in 2011 to 75.7 MPH in 2012 and gaining many more whiffs on it as well. Arroyo rung up 74 batters on sliders in 2012, his most on a single pitch type since 2007.
Watching his starts, it also showed that Bronson was able to mix in deliveries and speeds superbly in 2012. Using the vast range of velocities between his sinkers/fastballs and his breaking pitches, Arroyo can vary in velocity by as much as 18-20 MPH pitch-to-pitch. A good game caller like Ryan Hanigan at catcher also doesn’t hurt this much.
A switch in approach to a more breaking ball-reliant repertoire and an interesting mix of approaches and speeds aided Bronson Arroyo in being the old guard veteran presence in the 2012 Reds rotation. Here is hoping Arroyo’s days of flummoxing hitters with loopy breaking balls and myriad arm slots continues as we have him in the fold on his current deal through 2013 at $11.5M. He will be counted on in 2013 to be the steady innings eater, most likely cycling back to the 4th spot in the rotation with the breakout 2012 of the next subject of How They Did What They Did, Homer Bailey.