Bronson Bouncing Back?


No one will question the fact that 2011 was a down year for Bronson Arroyo. He led all of baseball in allowing 46 home runs and he led the National League in permitting 112 earned runs. Arroyo also, for the first time since 2004, failed to hurl 200+ innings. With that in the rear view mirror, he is ever so slowly looking like the Bronson Arroyo of 2010.

If you go to Arroyo’s Baseball Reference page which you can do by clicking on his name in the previous paragraph), you see that in Arroyo’s first season as a Red (2006), he posted a WAR of 6.7. While it is unlikely he will return to that level, it is not beyond a possibility he will better the WAR of 2.2 in 2010 and 2.4 in 2009, two seasons where Arroyo was, to most, a positive impact on the starting rotation.

Last season the emphasis was placed on Arroyo losing some velocity and that was pinned primarily on his illness from spring training. Well, I believe we can scratch that theory as Arroyo’s velocities for this season are fairly similar to those of last year. The following is taken from Arroyo’s Fangraphs page.

Fastball: 2012 – 87.0; 2011 – 87.0
Slider: 2012 – 76.4; 2011 – 75.3
Cutter: 2012 – 84.7; 2011 – 85.2
Curve: 2012 – 71.3; 2011 – 71.1
Changeup: 2012 – 78.1; 2011 – 79.0

The biggest variance as far as “velocity loss” is with his changeup, but that’s not a bad thing here. It has created a bigger differential between his fastball (which he is throwing less this year) and that change.

Conversely, the added velocity of his slider has made it Arroyo’s most effective pitch this season. His slider has displayed more overall movement (9.7) since 2007. The slider has also provided the highest rate for swinging strikes (14.2%) at any time since 2007. I mention 2007 because that is the first season in which data is provided by Fangraphs.

Some other numbers that are trending in a positive direction…

– LOB% of 75.8% is the highest since 2009 when it was 76.5%. He may allow more runners as his BAA suggests (.271), but he’s not allowing them to score as often.
– GB% rate of 40.3 is better than last year (38.7). We saw this past weekend that some routine flyballs can become home runs at GABP.
– Strikeout rate (5.94/9 innings) is the highest since 2008 (7.34), walk rate (1.59/9 innings) is lowest of his career, strikeout to walk ratio (3.74) is best ever.
– Swinging strike rate of 7.0% best since 2008 (8.3%). Always a plus when the opposing hitters miss.
– First pitch strikes is 67.0%, highest in career. Getting ahead early in the count bodes well for the pitcher.
– Contact rate of 84.7 is best since posting 84.7 in 2009.

Projecting out Arroyo’s for the 2012 season doesn’t look all that sexy (11-9, 3.87 ERA, 1.234 WHIP, 210 IP, 27 HR), but it is a positive step from last season. A huge step actually. Some of his numbers this season are well in line with those he posted in 2010, a season that saw him earn a career high 17 wins.

Ah, wins. For 2012, Arroyo sports a record of 7-6, a winning percentage of .538. In games where Arroyo starts, the Good Guys are 12-9, a winning percentage of .571. That winning percentage for an entire 162 season will net you 92-93 wins. So even when Arroyo doesn’t pitch well, the Reds, more times than not, are notching a “W”.

Sure, there are pitchers on this staff that own higher winning percentages when they start (Johnny Cueto‘s is .727 on a 16-6 record when he starts, but that is actually less than Cueto’s .737 winning percentage) than Arroyo, but with all the grief Arroyo received over the 2011 season and at many times in 2012, he’s not far off the numbers he posted previous to 2011.

And that Arroyo was a pretty darn good pitcher.

There are only a couple of negatives: one the Reds cannot control. The other, slightly.

One is that opposing managers are loading their lineup with lefty batters. For 2011 and this year, opposing lefties own a .300+ BAA against Arroyo, so you cannot blame them for doing so. The other is despite the increase in GB%, that hasn’t translated into a higher number of GIDP. Yes, game situations can, and often, do dictate this, but as opposing hitters are hitting him more, you would like to see more than 4 GIDP.

The 2012 Arroyo is one that all of us did not want to see. The hope we held for this season was that the 2010 Arroyo, or maybe even an Arroyo from another Reds season, would surface and the 2011 Arroyo would never emerge.

For 2012, we’ve mostly seen a non-2011 Arroyo. That’s a trend I think we would all want to continue.