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Updating the Top 100: Bronson Arroyo

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Bronson Arroyo’s place on the all-time list

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with a reminder of just how good Bronson Arroyo was once upon a time. Prior to the 2006 season, Arroyo had been traded to the Reds from Boston (for Wily Mo Pena) and some of us idiots thought it was a bad move for the Reds. All Arroyo did was throw 240 innings of 142 ERA+ ball, good for 6.8 bWAR, a figure that hasn’t been surpassed since by a Cincinnati pitcher.

With that spectacular introduction out of the way, Arroyo proceeded to pitch in a way that we’ll probably never see again. From 2007-2013, Arroyo averaged 207 innings and a perfectly average 100 ERA+, and he very infrequently deviated too far from either number. He was a Swiss-precision #3 or #4 starter, with the guts of an ace. His reputation as a guy who wanted the ball when the season was on the line was confirmed by the two playoff starts he made in 2010 and 2012, totaling 12.1 innings of 5 hit, 1 ER clutch pitching.

I like to think that he was beloved in Cincinnati in a way that he never quite could be in Boston, had he stayed there for so long. He was a bit goofy and anachronistic, wearing hairstyles and utilizing pitching motions and playing music that seemed obliviously out of date (“When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati–it is always ten years behind the times.” –Mark Twain, allegedly), while also pitching in a backwards and upstream fashion that, at his best, tied opposing hitters into frustrated knots.

But all of that is said as a way to stall before inevitably landing on Arroyo’s 2017 campaign, which was not good. The most charitable way to look at this season is to imagine that he was there to delay the service clock for the young minor league pitchers; unfortunately for Arroyo’s record, none of that narrative will make its way into the official register. He finished the season with a 3-6 record and a 7.35 ERA (60 ERA+) over 14 starts and 71 innings. He made his last start on June 18. It was his third straight disaster start; he was transferred to the disabled list but effectively had retired.

That said, I don’t have anything close to negative to say about Arroyo’s 2017 season. He had the opportunity to do something that he loved in an environment he felt comfortable in with basically zero risk attached to taking the chance. Those of us who are around Arroyo’s age know how unusual those opportunities truly are. Cheers to him for taking one last tour in uniform. Think of it as a counterbalancing bookend to the 2006 season that was also so unlike everything else we saw from the guy.

Over nine seasons, Bronson Arroyo has made 279 starts for the Reds, compiling a W-L record of 108-100, while posting a 4.18 ERA (101 ERA+) over 1761 innings. Arroyo’s swan song moves him down the all-time Reds list, from #95 to #98.