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HOMER BAILEY might have the most difficult job in baseball. It isn't pitching; the 27-year-old has gradually developed into a quality starter, and on July 2 he threw his second no-hitter in nine months. No, Bailey's greatest challenge comes the day before he takes the mound, when he is responsible for charting Arroyo's start, recording the type and location of each pitch. Or trying to.
"I have to sit next to the video guy, and I'm going, What was that?" Bailey says. "Was that his fastball? Was that his sinker? Was it his changeup?"
Arroyo makes up for what he lacks in arm strength with deception. Although he technically throws five pitches—a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer, a sinker, a curveball and a changeup—even his catchers have no idea from what angle he will deliver them after his Rockette-high leg kick or at what speed. A graph of his release points in any given game looks like a half rainbow, and a chart of his velocities resembles the price profile of a Chinese tech stock.
Take Arroyo's July 22 start against the Giants in San Francisco. His 108 pitches varied from 65 mph to 90, and he released them from as high as seven feet off the ground and as low as 4½ feet. He emerged with his sixth career shutout and his 100th win as a Red.
Arroyo himself often doesn't know what he is going to throw until a split second before he throws it. "Maybe I've never thrown a fricking sidearm changeup, but you know what, I can't get this m----------- out, so I'm going to throw him a sidearm changeup and get him out," he explains. "To be honest with you, there ain't many people who have ever played this game who are going to keep up with me mentally, picking hitters apart with the s--- that I have." To Arroyo, a catcher's sign is not a command but a suggestion.
That might come off as arrogant, but it's actually something else: straightforward. "Bronson's one of those interesting people, when he says something, his words actually mean something," says Logan. "It's not bull----. When he says he's going to do something, or has done something, he's really going to do it or has done it."
The cumulative ERA of the Reds' rotation is 3.34, the National League's third best. Arroyo leads the staff in innings (138), and his 3.26 ERA represents a career best. His style might even help his generally hard-throwing fellow pitchers. "I always tell him, 'I love throwing behind you,' " says Bailey, whose fastball tops out at 97 mph. "By the third, fourth at bat, they finally catch on to your s---, and then it's my turn and they're all screwed up."
Arroyo believes that his lack of heat, and the resulting lack of stress on his arm, have contributed to his health—but he cannot stand to lose much more velocity. "If it goes down to a Jamie Moyer level, I don't think I can be successful," he says.
Still, says Baker, Arroyo "has a lot of miles left in him because the older he gets, and the more he's pitching against young, inexperienced hitters, the better it is for him." Arroyo thinks he can pitch for three years after this one, though he knows they might not be with the Reds, as his three-year, $35 million contract expires this winter. "Would love to find a way to keep him, and I think he's very happy in Cincinnati," says Reds general manager Walt Jocketty. "We'll do whatever we can."
Arroyo has not mapped out his postbaseball life, but a few options are obvious. He is a singer and self-taught guitar player, and though he has not released an album since 2005's Covering the Bases—a collection of covers that peaked at 123 on the Billboard 200 chart—he has been writing new pop-rock songs with his friend Eliot Sloan, the frontman for the band Blessid Union of Souls. "He's got a really good ear, man, and that's what I listen for," says Sloan. "He's got a raspiness to his voice, which is cool. I could immediately tell that he was listening to a lot of bands in the '90s, but he doesn't mimic. He's got his own style and twist on things."