Bronson Arroyo has been around for quite some time. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1995 and made his MLB debut in June 2000, back when Bill Clinton was still president. Now, three presidents later, Arroyo is still taking the rubber in MLB stadiums and throwing 84 MPH fastballs to MLB hitters. Arroyo’s performance through 14 starts with the Reds this season reads like one would expect from a 40-year old who throws a high school-level fastball: 71 innings, a 7.35 ERA and 23 home runs surrendered. His most recent start, a three-inning, five-earned run outing against the Dodgers on June 18th, went so poorly that Arroyo broached the subject of retirement after the game.
Arroyo originally gained notoriety as one of the “idiots” on the 2004 Red Sox championship team. He pitched a combined 190 regular and postseason innings that season and earned national attention for his eccentric personality, various encounters with Alex Rodriguez and guitar-playing ability. Arroyo was often seen with a guitar in his hands around the Sox locker room and would allegedly serenade his teammates with covers of 1990s alt-rock and adult alternative classics like “Slide”, “Shimmer” and “Everlong”. He even, for some reason, released a 12-track cover album called Covering the Bases in 2005.
Arroyo was a fan favorite in Boston and signed a team-friendly contract extension in January 2006, however the Red Sox dealt him to the Cincinnati Reds only two months later in exchange for large man and great name-haver Wily Mo Pena. Bronson spent the next nine seasons with the Reds, growing out his hair, refining his leg kick and generally providing 200+ innings of solid albeit unspectacular pitching.
Arroyo and his wife of eight years divorced in 2008, with Arroyo remaining wifeless and childless ever since. He embraces the bachelor lifestyle, enlisting his friends for mid-day jam sessions and parties by the pool. And despite accrued career earnings of almost $100 million, Arroyo doesn’t flaunt fancy cars or wrist watches, instead preferring to spend his money on his friends. Despite not knowing anything about him outside of his Wikipedia page and some boston.com articles, Arroyo seems like a generally good, down-to-earth guy.
Which is why it’s unfortunate that his relatively successful career is now book-ended with this type of performance. Arroyo’s career began to sidetrack in mid-2014, when, after a trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks, he began to suffer elbow pain. He underwent Tommy John Surgery in July 2014 and was sidelined for the entirety of 2015. Arroyo attempted a comeback with the Washington Nationals in 2016, but only mustered nine innings pitched for their Gulf Cost League affiliate before being shut down due to elbow soreness.
Despite not pitching in a major league game since 2014, Arroyo was undeterred in his desire for a comeback. He received stem cell injections in late 2016 to relieve his elbow discomfort and hooked on with the Cincinnati Reds in February via a spring training invite. Despite posting a mediocre 4.71 ERA in 7 2/3 spring innings, the Reds saw enough in Arroyo to sign him to a major league contract and he opened the season in the rotation.
For some context, the Reds’ 2016 rotation was the third worst of all-time and the worst since 1890, so perhaps it’s not totally surprising that Cincinnati was in the market for an innings eating pitcher. What is surprising is that a franchise would continually trot out a pitcher who looks so clearly over-matched at the MLB level.
Arroyo throws a four pitch mix consisting of a four-seam fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. His slider and curveball actually rank as slightly above average according to FanGraphs’ linear pitch weights, but his fastball is by far the worst in the league, worth an appalling -23 runs thus far in 2017. Given that Arroyo is averaging 84 MPH on his fastball, and considering that he throws it over 40% of the time, the morbid results are unsurprising.
Arroyo’s 2017 numbers are horrible. His 7.35 ERA is third worst among starters with at least 50 IP (only Bartolo Colon and Tyler Glasnow are worse), while his 6.96 FIP is second worst to teammate Amir Garrett. He allows the most home runs per nine innings of any pitcher in the game with a ridiculous 2.92. His 5.70 K/9 rate only ranks in the 8th percentile of starters. And while Bronson does have decent command of the plate, and a solid resulting K/BB ratio, his proclivity for allowing taters erases any value derived from his control.
Bronson Arroyo has had a successful MLB career and has brought a unique character to the MLB with his eccentric personality, love of guitar-playing and care-free attitude. However, it’s time for him to hang up the cleats. Or, if he refuses, for Cincinnati to replace him with a minor league arm that surely could perform just as well, if not better.