In honor of Chad’s birthday, I thought I’d take a look at one of his favorite players this week: Bronson Arroyo.

First, a note: Arroyo is one of a handful of pitchers for whom I simply don’t trust WAR, and you won’t see those numbers here. Arroyo consistently outperforms his FIP (which is used to figure WAR). For his career, his ERA is 0.26 runs better than it “should” be. For his Reds career, the numbers are even better. Arroyo has thrown enough innings to tell us that FIP doesn’t value him correctly, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. If we were to make a list of pitchers who are hard to figure, Arroyo would be near the top of the list.

We have all gotten used to a certain level of consistency from Arroyo over the last five years. He blows up a few times a year, but otherwise throws a lot of innings and junkballs his way through lots of quality starts.

This year, sadly, has been different. Arroyo has been off more than he’s been on, and though he’s still eating plenty of innings, the results haven’t been great. The overall numbers, I hate to tell you, aren’t very encouraging, but there’s reason to be hopeful, and we’d all better be hopeful since Arroyo is going to be around for a while.

What jumps out right away, when we look at the numbers, is a HR/FB rate over 15%. Arroyo has a career rate around 10%, so that’s pretty out of the ordinary. It’s tempting to chalk that up to luck except that PitchFx tells us his fastball has lost about a mile and a half off its velocity this year. In fact, his velocity is down across the board.

And frankly, that’s it. All of Arroyo’s other numbers look about the same as they always have. All of them. When I wrote about Johnny Cueto, I mentioned that pitchers tend to level jump, and it is totally possible that Arroyo, who is 34 now, is falling a level. I think we all know that there’s never been much separating Bronson from a whole lot of guys who can’t make a living playing baseball. If he takes half a step back, he might fall off a cliff.

But there’s the elephant in the room: mono. Arroyo was diagnosed with mono during spring training, and, honestly, none of us has any idea if it’s still affecting him. I did a bit of researching on the interwebs and it can last for up to six months, with the general pattern being that you have more and more good days as it works out of your system.

Looking at his velocity charts, I think I can see some of that. His June 3 game against the Dodgers should give us all hope, as he looked more or less like his old self (a good day, perhaps?). He dropped off right after that start, but since then, though his average velocity hasn’t changed much, his peak velocity has been moving steadily upward.  In his last three starts, his fastball has been topping out around 89 MPH, and that is a big improvement from earlier in the year.

I want to be pessimistic about Arroyo. He’s 34, so I feel like I should be pessimistic about him, but I’m just not. If it was really age that was doing this to him, it doesn’t make sense that he’d start throwing harder as the season went on. What I think we’ll see is this: as we get into the second half, we’ll start to see consistently better results from Bronson. His velocity will go up and his HR rate (which I think has at least some bad luck in it) will go down. We’re deep enough into the season that his end-of-the-year numbers aren’t going to look great, but I think we’ll see something close to vintage Bronson starting now, more or less, and I don’t see any reason that he won’t continue to be a solid starter for the rest of his contract with the Reds.