I did some poring over Arroyo's stat lines and came up with a conclusion. Bronson isn't losing his stuff. He hasn't become a marginal pitcher overnight or lost his ability to perform. He's momentarily lost some command. That's heartening because it's correctable for a veteran pitcher if it doesn't correspond with a loss in "stuff" or a problem with health.
So far BA has pitched exactly 1/10th as many innings as last season. 21.3 compared to 210.7 last year. So lets multiply everything by 10 and compare the numbers to see if a problem is apparent.
'07 is the first number, 08 (multipliedx10) the second:
It's immediately apparent that he's missing bats even while getting hit hard. His K numbers are back to a 2006 level when he fanned 189. In fact the K ratio is slightly higher. To me that says the stuff is there.
What's lacking is command of his breaking stuff. At this seasons pace he'll be handing out 35 more free passes via walks and Hit batsmen than last year. He's also slinging wild pitches up there. Half as many already as last year in 1/10 the innings. The killer though is the long ball. At this clip he'll allow 60. He's hanging a lot of breaking stuff up in the zone. He was somewhat gopher prone the past 2 years at GAB but 28 a year is manageable (esp. for the park). 60 gets you the Hall of Infamy.
Now lets look at counts. Hitters put the ball in play against Arroyo in these counts:
Even 23.5% 2007 27.5%
Ahead 33% 2007 38.5%
Behind 43.5 2007 34%
Now Harang: And Cueto:
Even 19% 20.5%
Ahead 51% 48%
Behind 30% 31.5%
As comparison, Harang & Cueto are pitching even or ahead in the count when a batter puts a ball in play 70% of the time. Bronson just 56%. Even more significant Aaron is AHEAD of the hitters 51% of the time when a ball is put in play. Bronson? 38.5% Bronson has also gone to a long count (2-2, 3-1 or 3-2) when a ball is finally put in play 40 times in 21.3 innings. Harang? Just 33 times in 27 innings (not including Sunday's start). Cueto just 23 long counts in 26.1 innings. Just included Harang to give an idea what command and efficiency mean and how poorly Bronson's is right now. Cueto just to show how close he parallels Harang's numbers as far as command.
How bad does the command issue hurt Arroyo?
behind in counts BA = .346 OBP = .514 SP = .846 OPS = 1.340
ahead in counts BA = .259 OBP = .259 SP = .481 OPS = .740
In other words when he gets behind Bronson takes twice the beating.
The weather may be related too. In innings 1-3 BA is getting beat up. Here's his 1-3 and 4-6 splits:
Innings 1-3 HR 6 BA .340 OBP .418 SP .766 OPS 1.184
Innings 4-6 HR 0 BA .289 OBP .333 SP .368 OPS .702
He may be having trouble warming up - he IS better as the game goes on but he is so inefficient right now he's done by the 5th or 6th. It's been a cold, wet, windy April so far and that may be playing a role. However in looking at 06 and 07 he had very good April's both years. His '07 season was ruined by May and June when he pitched horribly. His other 4 months last year look just like his '06 numbers. His splits for May and June last year in fact, look a lot like this April. Falling behind, inefficient and getting hit hard when behind. He came out of that. I believe he'll come out of this funk, too.
Bronson's problem is getting behind, into a lot of long counts and having to come into hitters as a result. If you've watched he's elevating his pitches a bit, too, hanging the curve more than usual. That's all command. His curve still fools hitters when he's keeping it in the corners and low. It's also a matter of being just a bit "off" - that's all it takes for a Bronson Arroyo type to go from #2-#3 pitcher to dreck. A 10% change in command is what it boils down to. Command meaning both controlling the strike zone and consistently throwing quality pitches (as in not hanging the curve).
I'm convinced he can still have a solid season. I'd be much more concerned if he wasn't striking batters out and if he had never had this kind of slump before.
The predictions that he'll get worse as the weather gets warmer, that he's washed up, that he isn't suited for GAB or that he's suddenly not a good pitcher anymore are unfounded, imo. He is exactly what he is -a solid mid rotation starter that offsets the hard throwers well. He's in a slump. Curveballers are especially prone to spells like this. He'll snap out of it.