Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Giants should give Arroyo three years
By David Schoenfield
Bronson Arroyo said the other day that he would like a three-year contract, which may seem like a bit of a greedy request from an almost-37-year-old pitcher whose fastball doesn't exactly inspire sonnets.
The Giants have been linked to Arroyo all offseason and remain interested, according to the rumor mill, even after signing Tim Hudson. There are obvious reasons why Arroyo to the Giants makes perfect sense:
Bronson Arroyo made 32 starts and finished with a 3.79 ERA in 2013.
1. He's a durable workhorse who has pitched at least 199 innings each of the past nine seasons.
2. He doesn't throw hard but he throws strikes, walking just 69 batters in 64 starts over the past two seasons.
3. His big flaw as a pitcher -- he gives up home runs -- should be mitigated somewhat by moving from homer-prone Great American Ballpark to the spacious environs of AT&T Park.
4. Not only that, but the Giants play 19 or 20 road games a year in Dodger Stadium and Petco Park, two other tough places to hit home runs.
Here's how pitching in Cincinnati has affected Arroyo over the past two seasons:
Home: .273/.306/.440, home run-to-fly ball percentage of 10 percent.
Road: .252/.287/.422, home run-to-fly ball percentage of 11.9 percent.
Oops ... Arroyo has actually allowed a higher percentage of home runs on fly balls on the road than at the GAP, although his overall numbers are better on the road. Does that mean moving to San Francisco actually may not be the big benefit everyone perceives? Not necessarily. AT&T Park is still death to home runs. Over the past three seasons, Giants pitchers have allowed 0.95 home runs per nine innings on the road and 0.64 home runs per nine innings at home. In terms of percentage of home runs hit on fly balls, however, the difference isn't so dramatic:
Giants pitchers on the road: 2011-2013: 2,217 fly balls, 194 home runs (8.8 percent)
Giants pitchers at home: 2011-2013: 2,092 fly balls, 146 home runs (7.0 percent)
The batting stats on fly balls translate like this:
Giants pitchers on the road: 2011-2013 (fly balls): .216/.212/.568
Giants pitchers at home: 2011-2013 (fly balls): .183/.179/.482
Note that those numbers don't include line drives; over the past three seasons, the Giants have allowed 42 home runs on hits we classify as line drives -- 29 on the road, 13 at home. So what AT&T really cuts down on is line-drive home runs.
What's that mean for Arroyo? The park should still help him, even if it doesn't dramatically cut down on the home runs he allows. Arroyo's bad 2011 -- he allowed 46 home runs and had a 5.07 ERA -- may scare teams off from a longer contract, but he pitched through some lingering back issues that year. It certainly seems like an outlier season, as he's otherwise been amazingly consistent with ERAs of 3.84 (2009), 3.88 (2010), 3.74 (2012) and 3.79 (2013).
As for the Giants, while they still have a hole in left field, I think the hole in the back of the rotation is the bigger problem. While they have four slots filled with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Hudson and Tim Lincecum, Lincecum is still a wild card, a guy who has been below replacement-level the past two seasons. If you bring back Ryan Vogelsong, you're looking at opening the season with two question marks in the rotation, plus depth issues. That's the same recipe for disaster that felled the club in 2013.
The offense is still above-average -- the Giants were fourth in the NL in wOBA on the road -- and could improve with a healthy Angel Pagan and a better season from Pablo Sandoval. If the Giants need a left fielder, general manager Brian Sabean can pull off one of his signature July trades.
So Arroyo to the Giants makes perfect sense. Give him his third year.