Honorable Mention: Bronson Arroyo
Acquired in a trade late in the Spring of 2006, Bronson Arroyo has been nothing if not dependable. He makes every start, and he regularly finishes in the NL's top ten in innings pitched.
Of course, simply logging innings is of little value without those innings being good ones, and Arroyo can be regularly slotted into the "above average" category, having just one full season in his career with an ERA+ below 100 (2008). Just to get the cumulative Cincy numbers out of the way here, Arroyo has recorded the following pitching line since coming to the Reds: 70-60, 3.97 ERA (111 ERA+), 169 games started, 1087.1 innings pitched.
There are a couple of interesting things, to me, about Arroyo and his career. First, he wasn't all that impressive of a young player. He was a 3rd round draft pick by the Pirates (out of high school, natch), and while he was a decent enough pitcher rising through the ranks, he wasn't exactly great. Didn't blow a lot of hitters away, didn't make the big-time prospect lists, and didn't post an ERA below 3.3 until age 25, at the AAA level. Meanwhile, Arroyo was getting major league appearances as well, and they weren't good. Still, he was improving, and advancing, and had every look of being a useful #4/5 starter. The Pirates, being who they are, put Arroyo on waivers and within two seasons he was helping the BoSox towards their first championship in 80+ years. The point is not to strictly rag on the Bucs; while he could have and would have helped their team, Arroyo showed little as a young player to suggest that he would someday be a very serviceable old player.
The second interesting thing is that Arroyo has volatile strikeout rates. Since 2004, the K/9 numbers have looked like this: 7.2, 4.4 (no doubt lending support to the trade from Beantown), 6.9, 6.7, 7.3, 5.2, 5.0. His worst season in this stretch, ERA-wise, came during his best strikeout year. These last couple years, with the K rates around 5, have not been accompanied by an appreciable drop in walks allowed. Not to be dismissed in this observation is that the Reds' defense has been significantly better the last couple years. We hear the ‘pitch to contact' mantra every so often, but that's usually cover for mediocre (or worse) pitching staffs. These falling strikeout totals would typically be cause for alarm, but Arroyo seems to be mastering the lost art of junk-ball pitching. He's not afraid to throw slow and slower, to drop a rolling curve ball over on the first pitch, to drop down and throw a side-arm slider. The movement and the defense might (might) just make this work for awhile longer. With the recent contract extension, we'll certainly find out together.
One more thing. Did you know that Bronson Arroyo ranks 33rd on the list of active pitchers for innings pitched? He'll turn 34 during Spring Training, so he's not quite old, but he's quickly becoming one of the game's elders. He's morphing before our eyes into the crafty veteran, and so far the results have been good.
Arroyo ranks #113 on the all-time list, up from #149.