The past five years
The portrait of Bronson Arroyo
Arroyo will turn 37 later this month, and looks set to become the fourth oldest regular starter in Diamondbacks franchise history, trailing only knuckleballer Steve Sparks (38 in 2004), Orlando Hernandez (40 in 2006) and Randy Johnson (who was 44 in his last season with the club, 2008). But so far, age does not seem to have slowed Arroyo down at all: as has been noted widely, no pitcher has started more games than Arroyo over the past decade. Someone needs to check his locker for an elderly picture of the man. The question is, can he maintain this trend while with Arizona over the next two years?
"I’ve never been a hard thrower. Not having to pitch at max effort helps a lot. I think not having to go out there and feel like I have to empty the tank every night I pitch to get people out. I grew up very strange where my father had me in the weight room as a 5-year-old kid taking supplements and treating my body as we do as professional athletes. I’ve been doing that for the last 30 years. I felt like he built a good foundation for me to understand that this game is year-round, and not something you pick up for two or three months and then take two or three months off and jump right back into it."
-- Bronson Arroyo
Another thing that probably helps is he's economical with his pitch counts. Despite averaging 6.12 innings per game last year, and throwing a total of 202 innings, only three times did he require 100 or more pitches, and his average pitch count of 90 was the lowest in the National League by anyone with more than twenty starts. If last year is repeated, looks like Arizona is going to be seeing some quick half-innings in the upcoming campaign: for Arroyo was tied with new team-mate Brandon McCarthy, for the most efficient qualifying starter in all of baseball, at 3.48 pitches per plate appearance.
It'll be interesting to see what Arroyo's veteran presence does to the rest of our pitchers, because he has about six and a half years on the next oldest (McCarthy) and twelve and a half on the youngest (Patrick Corbin). He doesn't seem averse to mentoring them, but his comments yesterday seemed to suggest it could end up being a two-way street. "Maybe they need nothing from me. It all depends on what you see over time. You get to know some of these guys and see how they work and maybe they pick something up from me and maybe I pick something up from them. I think there’s always something to pick up along the way to either lengthen your career or make you better where you are."
The upside for Arroyo would be that the move to a more pitcher-friendly home field than Tiny American Ball Park, will convert some of those home-runs into fly-balls that drop harmlessly (after some brief moments of fan panic) into Gerardo Parra's glove. He'll continue to roll out there, every fifth day, and more often than not, give his team a chance to win - he was 8th in the NL last season for quality starts, with 22 out of 32 appearances. The downside? All those injuries he hasn't had over the past decade, catch up on him in a hurry, as the baseball gods cash in all those health IOUs they've given him.
This article is part of our 2014 Diamondbacks expectations series - check out the other entries.