There’s a pretty good general rule for baseball: extreme outliers are almost definitely the result of skill, but also of luck. Randy Johnson managed to log a perfect game on May 18, 2004, and it’s essentially impossible for any pitcher to do that without being well above average — but even RJ was not so good that he pitched perfect games with regularity. That performance was a combination of great skill and great luck.

Bronson Arroyo has pitched the most innings in the last ten years, an outstanding achievement. There is no way he could have done that without being a very durable pitcher. But are we certain it was not a result of luck, too? Seems like it has to be, and I don’t feel certain that Arroyo will buck the trends of what happens to pitchers when they get old (and Arroyo’s stuff has already started to decline). As far as I can tell, no one has claimed that Arroyo is an above-average pitcher on an inning-per-inning basis (although those who have claimed he is average are wrong, in my book). Instead, he has been credited for “consistency.” But is he really that consistent?

There’s a reason that projection systems put a much greater emphasis on recent seasons than on seasons 5-10 years ago. So let’s look at Arroyo’s last three. In 2013, Arroyo pitched 202 innings (30th in MLB), with a 0.8 WAR. 2012? 29th in innings (202 again), 2.4 WAR. And in 2011, Arroyo was just 41st in innings (199) while putting up a very bad -1.5 WAR. In the last three seasons, then, Arroyo has averaged 33rd among SPs in innings, while putting up an average of 0.8 wins above replacement. Not good.

We’ll post later this week about the Arroyo signing, in depth. But I don’t see the argument that he’s been consistent (in his 32 starts last season, he allowed 4 or more ER seven times, allowing 3 ER in another seven starts). And even if you thought he was consistent, I’m not sure I see $11M/season value in consistently mediocre innings. Pardon me for being pessimistic and “down” on this signing — I was stuck on the first stage of grief for a while, and now I’m just finishing up with the third stage (please can Arroyo fail a physical?), which brings me to “depression.”

We covered the Kirk Gibson, Kevin Towers and Gerardo Parra extensions last week, so the other remaining bit of news was that the D-backs avoided arbitration with Mark Trumbo at $4.8M on a one-year deal. Seems reasonable to me. It seems a little odd, though, that after rewarding Parra for a track record that historically has been undervalued in arbitration, the D-backs didn’t draw a line in the sand with Trumbo, whose statistics are of the type that, historically, have been overvalued in arbitration. The positions may be a little inconsistent, but not by much. The Trumbo settlement seems like a good move, if only because the extra $1M that could have been awarded in arbitration could have ended up costing the D-backs $6M or more in the long run.

In my humble opinion, we put up another week of great content last week. Make sure not to miss the excellent Q&A with Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, Jeff’s piece on the effects of the new TV contract, and an analysis of Paul Goldschmidt’s contract.

But there was other great writing on the D-backs in the last week. On to the links:

  • In his most recent notebook, Nick Piecoro writes about Randall Delgado’s likely transition to the bullpen. I do agree that Delgado might have slightly better success in relief, if he can stick with two pitches. I expect to contrast Delgado’s move to the bullpen to Josh Collmenter’s late this week.
  • I also particularly enjoyed Piecoro’s notebook from Friday. Huge to see Dave Duncan pulling some strings already. Also of interest: Towers calling Didi Gregorius the favorite to win the shortstop job. We’ve heard elsewhere that we won’t see a Gregorius/Chris Owings platoon — one will go to Reno.
  • Piecoro wrote on Saturday that J.J. Putz is motivated to be the team’s closer in 2014. I wish him all the best; as I wrote in depth (last section) almost two months ago, there are several reasons to keep Putz in that role over Addison Reed, the financial one not least among them. Actually, that piece is relevant right now for another reason — I thought RHP Will Harris could potentially serve as the second lefty in the bullpen, but if Delgado is moved from the rotation, Harris could be the odd man out.
  • At Snake Pit, Jim McLennan dug in on the Arroyo signing. I pretty much agree, but I think in general the “sixth man” thing has been overstated. Yes, it’s important to not give away the starts made by fill-ins. But fill-ins can just as easily be scrap heap guys, reclamation projects, injury risks, etc. The Dodgers outflanked the D-backs on this by signing Paul Maholm.
  • At Venom Strikes, Thomas Lynch explains why he supports the Arroyo signing. Again, Arroyo’s past numbers don’t guarantee anything, let alone 13 wins or 200 IP — he might be more likely to reach those marks than some other pitchers, but what is a slight advantage there worth? Lynch calls the move a “no-brainer,” and I agree, but probably for a different reason.
  • At Rant Sports, Tyler Leli writes that the Arroyo signing “shores up” the D-backs rotation. This all comes down to whether you think Delgado was a liability (I happen to think he might be better than Arroyo in 2014). Leli does describe Arroyo accurately, but I don’t follow him on the idea that Arroyo’s off-speed style and mix will “translate well to Chase Field, which is a pitcher’s park and will not torment the starting pitcher for having a 39.6 percent career fly ball rate.” What? Chase did suppress home runs a bit more than average in 2013, but that might be an aberration. Chase may not be the HR haven that Great American Ball Park is, but let’s not overstate that effect.
  • At ESPN, Keith Law excoriated the Arroyo signing (paywall) for his declining skills (87 mph over the last three years), making the very solid point that the D-backs recently gave away the highly similar (and maybe better) Ian Kennedy, precisely because Kennedy was not what the D-backs needed.
  • Also at ESPN, Jim Bowden wrote that Arroyo gives the D-backs flexibility. Yes, that’s absolutely true. Of course, it’s not like signing him means the D-backs can use a 26-man active roster, and whoever gets dumped last was probably going to be valuable, too.

3 Responses to Roundup: D-backs Sign Bronson Arroyo, Mark Trumbo

  1. Paulnh says:

    I am a fan of this Mark Trumbo deal. The Diamondbacks offered him way too little in arbitration, and we were certain to lose that case. This move saves us money this year and down the road. I do agree though (as much as I think Trumbo will be good next year) that its weird that Trumbo gets the same amount of money in his first year of arbitration as Gerardo Parra does in his second. It’s unfair for Gerardo Parra, and I think that baseball should adjust the system to make arbitration help all players equally.

  2. […] “We rated this deal as a positive, because it could have been much worse. But at this salary for his very first year of arbitration, Trumbo’s value as an asset will go way down for 2015, and he might even become a non-tender candidate for 2016.” — RPM (more) […]

  3. […] ball clubs around young, cost-controlled talent, Kevin Towers is shipping it away in multiples. Trumbo has already entered arbitration and Reed will do so next year. They’re only going to get more expensive in the future. Arroyo is […]

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