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Ricky Romero’s Renewed Optimism
Toronto Blue Jays former ace Ricky Romero struggled mightily in 2012. He was coming off an impressive 2011 season in which he finished 10th in the Cy Young voting with a 2.92 ERA, pitching for a beleagured Blue Jays club in the AL East. His big curveball, very good changeup, and fastball were all on point and he had the look of a pitcher ready to dominate for some time. He was 26 and–famously–was my pick to finish 3rd in last year’s Cy Young voting. He did not. Instead, he posted a -1.7 bWAR; he was the 5th worst qualifying starter in the Majors according to Fangraphs. And he got lit to the tune of a 5.77 ERA.
But, it’s Spring Training 2013 now and Ricky Romero thinks he’s found the answer, thanks in part to teammate Brandon Morrow.
From a piece over at Fangraphs:
Brandon Morrow’s research startled Ricky Romero. It showed that Romero had almost given up on a key pitch during his disastrous 2012 season.
In 2011, when his ERA was 2.92, Romero threw sinking two-seam fastballs 22% of the time. Last year, his sinker rate fell to 11%. His ERA was 5.77, worst among big-league starters.
Morrow found those figures on the Brooksbaseball.net website, printed them out and gave them to Romero.
“I was a little bit amazed by it,” Romero said Tuesday, pulling the sheet from his locker.
I think we can all agree that while Romero might need to get back to his sinker/two-seamer, but the larger issue for Romero revolves around the number of balls that he threw last year. He walked two more batters per 9 innings than he did in 2011. He threw 42.4% balls in 2012 compared with 38.7% in 2011. That difference of 3.7% is basically an extra 4 balls per game (where those extra walks came from).
Look, I know I’m not blowing any minds here saying that Romero needs to throw more strikes to be successful. I’m also fully aware that making the necessary changes to throw more strikes isn’t always the easiest thing (or presumably Romero would have done so last July before wrecking my fantasy team).
But, I do like that he’s going to throw his two-seamer more.
That change in approach will help in motivating Romero to attack the zone. Rather than emphasizing, “Throw more damn strikes!!” pitching Coach Pete Walker (and Brandon Morrow) is suggesting that maybe Romero throw more fastballs. That new approach should help Romero both throw more strikes (the primary source of his problems in 2012) and go deeper into games. The deeper into the game thing is what will help Romero take that next step to elite pitcher (assuming he is capable of regaining a semblance his 2011 form).
Bottom line: 2012 is a make or break year for Romero. He’ll join a rather large contingent of pitchers looking to turn it around in 2013, but his prospects look good. He has the stuff, the previous success, and the support system necessary to rebound. And now it seems he got a bona fide strategy to do it. If all goes well, he’ll look to become the way-too-good-to-be-a number three starter in a vicious Blue Jays rotation.
Stat of the Day: Kris Medlen threw 30.6% balls in 2012.