June 29, 2012
Why Some Pitchers Don't Get Injured
On Tuesday night, word went around: Reds starter Bronson Arroyo was working on a no-hitter against the Brewers. Through 7 1/3 innings, Arroyo had allowed only one baserunner, keeping the Brewers at bay after hitting Ryan Braun with a pitch in the first. Milwaukee had managed to get only four balls out of the infield.
This was unexpected, to say the least. Seventy-three pitchers have pitched at least 250 innings over the past two seasons. Only four of them have given up hits at a higher rate than Arroyo. The 35-year-old right-hander hasn’t thrown a pitch at 90 miles per hour all season, and his career ERA is just 3 percent lower than league average. Even if he did throw a no-hitter, no one would say he had no-hit stuff.
That’s why it wasn’t shocking when it all came apart for Arroyo with one out in the eighth. After a walk to George Kottaras, Arroyo allowed back-to-back doubles, then a single. Just like that, the Reds’ 3-0 lead at the start of the inning was erased, and Arroyo’s night was over. His totals: 7 2/3 innings, three hits, three earned runs, one walk, four strikeouts. A strong line, but not one that would suggest Arroyo had flirted with history.
It’s appropriate that Arroyo’s outing ended up looking unremarkable, since one could say the same about most of his starts. But there is one respect in which Arroyo stands out: he’s very, very good at showing up for work.
Baseball Prospectus keeps complete records of major-league disabled list stints, starting in 2002. Since then, 10 pitchers have thrown at least 1,000 innings without once appearing on the DL. Arroyo ranks fourth, with more than 1,800.
Some of these starters are stars, and others are barely above average. But even the less talented ones have accumulated plenty of value, purely by virtue of their unflagging ability to take the ball.