Bronson Arroyo: Rotation Glue
To call a pitcher an “innings eater” isn’t exactly a term of endearment. It’s used to describe the pitcher who plays the role of sacrificial lamb the night after a starting pitcher implodes, causing the team to burn its bullpen. Bronson Arroyo has been the epitome of an innings eater. And while Reds fans longed for an upgrade, the right-handed pitcher threw between 199 and 240 2/3 innings for eight consecutive years.
In 2013, the Arizona Diamondbacks rotation could have used a pitcher like Bronson Arroyo. They signed one with a similar strikeout-to-walk rate in Brandon McCarthy, but he only threw 135 innings due to shoulder problems.
Trevor Cahill threw a career low 153 innings pitched after missing a month with a hip contusion. In three seasons prior, his ground ball heavy arsenal helped him average more than 200 innings pitched.
Patrick Corbin was a revelation in 2013, anchoring the Diamondbacks staff. However, he fizzled in the second half as the innings piled up.
Fellow left-handed pitcher Wade Miley also chipped in more than 200 innings, posting a 3.98 FIP en route to a two win season.
In 2013, the Diamondbacks also cycled a number of young pitchers including Tyler Skaggs (Traded), David Holmberg (Traded) and Randall Delgado. The best pitching prospect in baseball, Archie Bradley, is close to Major League ready as well.
Ian Kennedy also made 21 starts before being dealt to the San Diego Padres. After averaging more than 200 innings pitched during his three full seasons in Arizona, 2013 saw his walk rate crumble, resulting in a poor season by Kennedy’s standards.
The Diamondbacks bullpen wound up blowing 29 saves due to injuries and possible overuse. Jack of all trades Josh Collmenter was a bright spot accumulating 92 innings, but even the converted starter stumbled down the stretch after a 21 inning August.
Injury concerns and young starters posting big innings totals is not unique to the 2013 Diamondbacks either. Daniel Hudson threw 222 innings as a 24-year old in 2011 resulting in multiple Tommy John procedures.
If one could place a petri dish full of the Arizona pitching staff’s collective injury risk under a microscope, then adding an eye dropper full of Arroyo would kill some of the bad bacteria.
For a number of Major League teams, a pitcher like Arroyo wouldn’t be a necessity considering his ERA+ is an even 100 since turning 30. But for Arizona, penciling in a starting pitcher all but guaranteed to throw 200 innings is important to the future of the organization.
By 2015, the staff will include Bradley, Corbin, Cahill and Miley barring injury. Arroyo will round out the rotation and his rubber arm will allow the manager and pitching coach to think twice about overusing a young starter or reliever.
As an example, envision a game where Wade Miley has a 5-4 lead after five innings pitched. He has already thrown 96 pitches and has so-so stuff. Miley leads off the next inning, so it makes sense to send him out in the sixth, even if it means throwing 110+ pitches. After all, Randall Delgado is on the hill tomorrow and he’ll need Collmenter as a piggy back considering the former Braves prospect can only be trusted to throw five innings.
Take the same scenario substituting Arroyo for Delgado.
Wade Miley has a 5-4 lead after five innings pitched. He has already thrown 96 pitches and has so-so stuff. Miley leads off the next inning, but Bronson Arroyo is scheduled to start tomorrow. We could push Miley another inning, or utilize the bullpen to win this game and save the lefties bullets for another day. After all, we can let Arroyo throw 120 pitches tomorrow because he’s not really a part of our organization’s future. He’s here to lift a heavy innings load.
Bronson Arroyo’s value shouldn’t be measured by wins above replacement. He’ll never stack up. However, the addition of Arroyo to a rotation like the Diamondbacks will allow the organization to protect the rest of its staff by letting him handle a heavy innings load. Over months, the trickle down effect will result in less injury and better performance for both starters and relievers. For Arizona, Arroyo will be the glue that holds the staff together in 2014.
10 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman / 1
Categories: MLB Analysis
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