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Checking In on My Player to Watch for the Cincinnati Reds: Yeah, I Nailed This One

by Wendy Thurm on July 29, 2011

If you’ve been lurking around HangingSliders since before the season began, you will hopefully recall my “Player to Watch” series. For those of you new to HangingSliders, let me fill you in.

In the lead-up to Opening Day, I identified a “player to watch” for each team. In some instances, the “player to watch” was a former All-Star hoping for a bounce-back year. In others, it was a young player looking to make a name for himself or a steady, but unremarkable veteran.

The keynote of my “player to watch” selections was this: the player would be critical to his team’s success in 2011; a bellweather of sorts.  As the “player to watch” goes, I predicted, so will go the team.

My “player to watch” for the Cincinnati Reds was starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo. You can read the full write-up here. The key points:

The Cincinnati Reds can hit. And walk. And hit for power. The Reds will score runs in 2011. The question is whether the Reds young pitching staff will keep more runs from scoring than the Reds hitters can put up on the scoreboard.

* * * * * *

Arroyo had a very good year in 2010, reaching 17 wins for the first time in his career. He also posted the lowest WHIP (walks + hits/inning) and BAA (batting average against) since he pitched as a reliever for the Red Sox in 2003.

Arroyo is the “granddaddy” of the Reds’ starting rotation. At 34, he’s seven years older than the next oldest starter (Edinson Volquez) and eleven years older than the youngest starter (Mike Leake). Leake had an erratic spring. Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto will be coming off injuries. Volquez has not been sharp out of the gate for the Reds in 2011. That’s a lot of youth and early injuries for the starters.

To repeat as NL Central champions, the Reds need Arroyo to anchor the rotation: to make his starts, to go deep into games, and to meet or exceed his performance from 2010. As Bronson Arroyo goes in 2011, so go the Reds.

After a career year in 2010, Arroyo’s been one of the worst starting pitchers in the majors this season. This is due largely to his penchant for giving up home runs to the opposing team. In 21 games, he’s yielded 30 long balls, which is 1 shy of his career high of 31 over the course of the entire 2009 season. His home runs/9 innings pitched ratio is 2.12, nearly double the 1.21 from 2010. Prior to this season, Arroyo’s career high for HR/9 was 1.31, in 2008.

Overall, Arroyo’s posted a 5.58 ERA and an even higher FIP of 5.68. Cincinnati’s defense isn’t letting Arroyo down; it’s the other way around.

Arroyo’s poor season has had disastrous results for the defending National League Central champs.  In 2010, the Reds were 20-13 in games started by Arroyo. The Reds finished the season at 91-71. That means Arroyo contributed directly to 22% of the Reds’ wins in 2010.

So far this season, Arroyo’s personal record is 7-9. The Reds’ record in games started by Arroyo is 9-12.  With the Reds sitting at 50-55 heading into Friday night’s game against the San Francisco Giants, Arroyo’s contributed to only 14% of the Reds’ wins but 22% of the Reds’ losses.

It’s true that the Reds’ offense has not kept pace with 2010 production, either. To date, the Reds have scored 488 runs, which puts them on pace to score 750 runs for the season, compared to 790 runs scored in 2010.

But Arroyo’s been a huge disappointment for Dusty Baker’s team in 2011 and huge reason the Reds find themselves 5 games under .500 and in 4th place in the mediocre National League Central.

On this one, I nailed it. As Bronson Arroyo’s gone in 2011, so have the Cincinnati Reds.

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