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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Better Know a Red #14 - Bronson Arroyo

In part 14 of our ongoing series, Better Know a Red, we turn our attention to the Reds' exciting and flamboyant 29-year old starting pitcher, Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo was a 3rd-round selection in the 1995 amateur draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, out of Hernando High School in Brooksville, Florida. He rose through the Pirates' system at a good pace for a high school pitcher, making his debut in 2000 as a starter/reliever at age 23. He was never able to achieve consistent success in his initial years with the Pirates, and was eventually claimed off of waivers by the Boston Red Sox on February 4, 2003. While he initially spent most of his time in AAA for the BoSox, he made the big league club in 2004 and turned in a very solid performance, going 10-9 with a 4.03 ERA in 179 innings (mostly as a starter) for the World Champions. In 2005, he repeated with a solid if unspectacular performance, going 14-10 with a 4.52 ERA in 205 innings.

In his first big move as the new general manager of the Reds in 2006, Wayne Krivsky traded Wily Mo Pena to the Red Sox for Arroyo in a deal that, at the time, received very mixed reviews. At the time this is written, Arroyo has thus far come up huge on his end, starting the season with a phenomenal 5-0 record and a 2.06 ERA, going 8+ innings in each of his last three starts including a complete game victory vs. the Cardinals. The media is talking of "Arroyomania" as Reds fans become increasingly excited about the high-kicking, guitar-strumming pitcher. He even earned my highly prestigious Statistical Pitcher of the Month award for April 2006. The Reds desperately need Arroyo to turn in a solid year to help Aaron Harang solidify their otherwise shaky starting rotation.

Additional biographical information (with a slightly bitter slant) can be found in Arroyo's entry at Red Hot Mama's Human League.

Historical Statistics: (for descriptions of all the statistics used in this profile, please see the Baseball Statistics Quicksheet)

2003/BOS-AAA 149.2 9.3 1.4 0.54 0.322 3.43 2.37 3.77 10.7 --
2003/BOS 17.1 7.4 2.1 0.00 0.211 2.08 2.26 2.70 6.9 40%
2003/BOS 178.2 7.2 2.4 0.86 0.282 4.03 3.64 3.92 27.7 45%
2003/BOS 205.1 4.4 2.4 0.97 0.270 4.51 4.41 4.64 18.7 4
In the 2004 season, Arroyo proved that his was capable of being a very solid pitcher. He walked very few, kept the ball in the park, and struck out opposing batters at an above-average clip. There was little reason to think those numbers were a fluke, as they looked very similar to (albeit not as impressive as) his 2003 AAA numbers. Nevertheless, he regressed a bit in 2005. While his walk and HR-allowed rates remained about the same, his strikeouts were dramatically down from a very respectable 7.2 k/9 innings in 2004 to a well below-average 4.4 k/9 in 2005. His ERA and FIP correspondingly rose by a half-run per nine innings.

Looking at his splits, it appears that most of this problem arose in the second half of the season, when his strikeout rate dropped from an already low 5.3 k/9 before the all star break to a dreadful 3.4 k/9 after the break. In fairness to Arroyo, 2005 was the first time he had ever thrown 200 innings in a season. Therefore, it's possible that the drop-off in performance was just the result of him getting tired. Many pitchers experience something like this the first time they go 200 innings, but then are able to remain effective in subsequent seasons. Hopefully this will be the case with Arroyo and he can remain effective all year long.

'03-'05 Splits:

Category IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP
vs. Left 214 4.4 2.7 1.13 0.280 4.04 5.04
vs. Right 186 7.3 2.0 0.58 0.264 4.40 3.32
Home 199 5.4 2.5 1.04 0.291 4.94 4.59
Away 198 6.1 2.2 0.73 0.255 3.54 3.93

As much as Arroyo professes to have loved playing in Boston, Fenway Park has not been kind to him in his career. His lifetime ERA is 1.4 runs/9 innings higher in Fenway than on the road. Fenway park is a moderate hitters' park, with a runs park factor of 1.02. Much of this seems to be derived from the effect of the Green Monster, as an absurd number of fly balls to the outfield result in doubles there compared to other parks (2B/OF park factor is 1.76!). This may be good news for Reds' fans. The Green Monster, at a very short 310 feet from home plate, will convert a lot of fly balls that will be caught in GABP into doubles. Granted, GABP may allow more home runs than Fenway (at least to left field), but I'd expect the net effect to be that Arroyo will pitch better in 2005 when at home.

Arroyo also has shown a substantial left/right split over the past two years, although it goes in the opposite direction that his ERA suggests. Arroyo has struck out left-handers at a lower rate, walked them at a higher rate, and allowed home runs more often compared to right-handers. Part of the reason for the higher overall ERA vs. righties is probably the ability for right-handers to pull the ball off the Monster. Moral of the story? If there's a powerful left-handed bat coming up to the plate in a late-inning, game-critical situation, Narron should strongly consider bringing in Mercker.


PECOTA75 199.0 5.5 2.1 1.04 0.285 4.04 4.18 4.11 34.4 42%
PECOTA 200.3 5.4 2.2 1.12 0.291 4.43 4.36 4.41 24.3 42%
PECOTA25 180.0 5.3 2.4 1.20 0.299 4.96 4.54 4.82 11.4 42%
ZiPS 156.0 7.1 3.5 1.21 0.289 4.85 4.55 --- --- --

One thing to keep in mind about these projections is that both PECOTA and ZiPS were generated prior to the Arroyo trade, and therefore they assume that half of his appearances will be at Fenway park. Therefore, given his struggles in that park, these numbers may be harsher than they otherwise would be. Nevertheless, there's good reason to think that Arroyo has pitched above his head so far this season (e.g. BABIP=0.193 thus far). However, I'm not putting a lot of stock into these predictions. For example, the PECOTA numbers show little indication that Arroyo's strikeout rate might improve above the mid-five's per nine innings, even in a good-case scenario. Given that Arroyo managed a 7.2 k/9 only two years ago, I tend to think that PECOTA doesn't have him gauged very well on this statistic, indicating (again) that he may be better this year than the projections indicate. Furthermore, ZIPS predicts a walk rate that is higher than anything Arroyo as done since his half-season with the Pirates in 2001. I see no reason why this would occur.

Overall, I think all indications are that Arroyo is a solid pitcher who should do a good job for the Reds this year. The best evidence that he is in line for a solid season is his strikeout rate, which is back up in the 7k/9 range thus far. While his superb early start may have me a bit overly-optimistic, but I anticipate that he will turn in a 3.75-4.00 ERA this season and be part of a quality 1-2 punch in our rotation along with Harang. It's exciting to have a quality pair of pitchers at the top of our rotation. Best of all, the Reds should be able control Arroyo (contrary to Hal McCoy's mistaken claims to the contrary) for the next several years. If we can add a third quality pitcher to that mix in the next year, we would finally have a legitimate quality rotation.

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