A pair of aces
BY JOHN FAY | JFAY@ENQUIRER.COM
When the Reds decided to invest $61.5 million in new money to keep Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo in the fold through at least 2010, they were confident they were getting quality and quantity.
When it comes to pitching - particularly starting pitching - quantity is important.
"Innings," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "Innings. That's No. 1. You get 470 some innings from two guys on your starting staff, that's pretty good."
Arroyo led the major leagues with 240 2/3 innings pitched. Harang finished third in the National League with 234 1/3 innings.
The Reds' fortunes this year are tied directly to the right arms of Arroyo and Harang.
That's why the Reds made the big investment in them. If Harang and Arroyo can do what they did last year - combine to win 30 games - the Reds have a chance to contend.
The Reds have long been an organization starved for starting pitching, so when Harang and Arroyo emerged as top-flight starters last year, the Reds rewarded them.
"Getting them signed will have a very positive impact on the franchise," CEO Bob Castellini said.
Again, it comes down to innings. Putting up all those innings saves the bullpen. It also means you're getting close to seven good innings in 70 games. Arroyo averaged 6.85 innings per start over 35 starts; Harang averaged 6.68 over 35.
On most nights, those were quality innings. When you go to the bullpen, especially early in the game, you're never sure what you're going to get.
"Every club in baseball, their goal every night is to get to the bullpen as quick as they can," Narron said. "The quicker you get to bullpen, the better chance you have of winning that game."
The Reds haven't had a pair of starters do what Harang and Arroyo did in 2006 since the early 1990s.
Harang went 16-11 with a 3.76 ERA. He led the NL in strikeouts with 216. Arroyo went 14-11 with a 3.29 ERA.
"When they go out there, you feel like you have a chance to win," Narron said. "That's huge. It gives the whole team confidence."
They became the first Reds duo to win at least 14 games apiece since Tim Belcher and Jose Rijo won 15 each in 1992.
Harang and Arroyo are different types of pitchers. Harang, a 6-foot-7, 254-pounder (down from 275), is more of a power pitcher. His fastball tops out at 93 mph. He'll give a hitter a steady diet of fastballs and sliders.
Arroyo, at 6-5 and 194 pounds, is more of a finesse pitcher. His fastball tops out at 90. He throws a variety of breaking pitches from a variety of angles.
Both came to the Reds in trades.
Harang was obtained from Oakland in the Jose Guillen trade in the fire sale of July 2003. The trade was made by acting general manager Brad Kullman.
The Reds put him in the rotation in '03. He has been there since. His ERA has dropped, and his win total has gone up each of the last three years. He was 10-9 with a 4.86 ERA in '04, 11-13 with a 3.83 in '05 and 16-11 with a 3.76 last year.
That was a major factor in the Reds' decision to sign Harang to a four-year, $36.5 million extension.
Arroyo came from the Boston Red Sox on March 20, 2006, for Wily Mo Peņa. It was GM Wayne Krivsky's first trade. It signaled a change in direction in the organization away from power toward pitching, and it went a long way toward turning the Reds into a contender last year.
Last season was the third straight that Arroyo reached double figures in wins. His innings have gone from 178 2/3 to 205 1/3 to 240 2/3 over last three years.
That's why the Reds pledged $25 million in new money to extend his contract until 2010. The move came just two days after Harang's extension.
Neither pitcher knew the other was about to sign. But Arroyo was glad it turned out to be a semi-package deal.
"I didn't know Aaron was signing until the day before he did," Arroyo said.
"I'm glad they locked him up. It's nice to have another guy to lean on. You don't want to carry the whole load."
2 MINUTES WITH AARON HARANG
When you got the big contract this offseason, did you splurge and buy anything? "No. I actually bought a new car before that, an Escalade. It wasn't related to that."
Describe counterpart Bronson Arroyo as a pitcher: "He's going to keep you off balance by throwing all kinds of pitches at you. It's not going to be a certain pitch. He throws his breaking ball a lot, but it's coming from different arm slots, different angles. He throws his whole arsenal at you."
Would you rather throw 200 innings or have a sub-3.50 ERA? "200 innings."
Toughest hitter to face: "Probably Albert Pujols or Barry Bonds. They're going to hit your mistake. You can't make a mistake."
Give us a scouting report on yourself as a hitter: "Bad. It's pretty simple."
Fans' 2 cents
From Cincinnati.Com online Reds' fans survey:
"One of the most important members of this team. If he and Arroyo repeat last year's (totals), look for the Reds to be in the playoffs.
"Should have gotten more recognition last year."
"Very consistent. Great delivery. ... The next two years are his prime.
"This is a big year for him. He's shown improvement every year and needs to continue. If he is to truly be the ace of the staff - at least until Homer Bailey is ready - Harang has to again win 15-18 games, and come up big in big games."
2 MINUTES WITH BRONSON ARROYO
When you got the big contract extension this offseason, did you splurge and buy anything big? "Yeah, I guess I did. I went down one day and bought a boat - a 48-footer."
Describe counterpart Aaron Harang as a pitcher: "He's going to come right at you with fastballs, sliders at the knees. Nothing fancy. He's just aggressive in the zone."
Would you rather pitch 200 innings or have a sub-3.50 ERA? "Definitely 200 innings."
Toughest hitter to face: "Probably Albert Pujols" (right).
Give us a scouting report on yourself as a hitter: "Throw him anything other than a fastball, and you're going to get him out."
Fans' 2 cents
From Cincinnati.Com online Reds' fans survey:
"Get him some run support and defense and he will do fine."
"Motivated, dependable, and can HIT."
"Great innings-eater and the kind of guy Cincy needs in the clubhouse. Cincy no longer has the weakest pitching thanks to him."
"I hope he can duplicate last year, but I'm skeptical."
"Overachieved last year, can't overpower when needed (and) will slip this year."
"This season he has to show that he is the real deal."