The Reds took it on the chin in Game 1 and look to get up off the mat in Game 2. Playing the role of stopper for the Redlegs will be Bronson Arroyo. For all intents and purposes, the Reds playoff livelihood is on the line tonight. If they dump Game 2, then the climb back into the series is all but insurmountable, especially with Roy Halladay lurking around the corner. Interestingly enough, Bronson Arroyo is, or at least should, be pitching for his future with the organization.
The Reds hold an $11M team option on Arroyo for 2011 with a $2M buyout. The Reds also have a surfeit of starting pitching in 2011, including Cueto, Edinson, Homer, Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, and others. Does it make sense to pay Arroyo that kind of money when you have stable of young, cost effective starters already in the mix? I would submit that it only makes sense for games like tonight. That's the role that Arroyo needs to fill to justify such a significant financial outlay. We simply don't need him to beat up on the dregs of the NL Central. No, we need him to be a veteran stopper against the elite teams. If he can do that, then he should certainly have a role on this team going forward.
Tonight is a prime example of the caliber of lineup you have to face and defeat to win a championship. Unfortunately, Arroyo's current pitching profile is not that of a dominating pitcher, which could mean struggles against an offense like the Phillies. Of course, he has made a career out of proving me wrong, but from a statistical standpoint, the odds are likely against him tonight.
In 2010, Arroyo has 3.88 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP, which are impressive numbers, but the component stats simply don't support his overall performance. His FIP is 4.61 and his xFIP is 4.60, so there are some legitimate questions on Arroyo. He managed to outperform his FIP and xFIP last year as well, but I'm not sure gambling big money on Arroyo continuing this level of performance is the best way to go. His strikeouts per nine has fallen for the third year (7.34 to 5.19 to 5.05) in a row and now sits at a borderline acceptable level. History shows that starting pitchers need to strikeout more than 5.0 hitters per nine in order to maintain consistent, year-in year-out success. Arroyo is trending in the wrong direction. Additionally, Arroyo had a BABIP of .246, which is probably unsustainable, even if he has managed to reduce his line drive rate to 16.3%. Additionally, all contact pitchers are getting a bit of a boost from the league wide decline in power hitting, which may or may not continue into 2011. It's largely a question of whether Arroyo can decrease his contact rate or, failing that, continue to effectively manage the type of contact that he gives up.
Overall, Arroyo is a high contact pitcher facing a stacked lineup that is lefthand heavy. Add in the bandbox that is Citizens Bank and it's a tall order for Arroyo. However, if Arroyo can't get the job done, then I'm not entirely sure we can justify paying him $11M in 2011. Granted, his 200 plus innings every year are nice, but this is a team that needs to continue improving. Given it's current position on the organizational win cycle, that may well mean building a team that is structured to succeed in the playoffs. If Arroyo can't succeed in the big games against the elite lineups, then maybe it's time to turn the rotation over to the young guys and use the salary savings to acquire some high leverage relievers or a better option in leftfield. Branch Rickey once said "Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late." Arroyo will be 34 in 2011, so the Reds will have to factor that in when they determine Arroyo's fate with the organization.
The Reds need a win tonight and they are turning to Arroyo to get it. To be honest, I fully expect the Reds to bring Bronson back in 2011, but if he gets lit up tonight then I'm not so sure he deserves it. Still, I'm hoping he goes big tonight against the Phils and earns his next contract with the Reds.
GO REDS GO!!!!!!!!