Coming off three straight very steady seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Ricky Romero was starting to look like a real workhorse. Though not flashy (i.e. strikeouts) Romero had nestled in to a dependable guy who would give you innings, get a few strikeouts, induce an above average amount of ground balls and keep you in ballgames.
While most expected a reasonable amount of regression given his peripherals in 2011 (and a 4.20 FIP) I think it is safe to say nobody could have predicted such a disastrous 2012 campaign. To say he has been anything other than awful is just plain wrong – 5.69 ERA, 5.15 FIP, 1.57 WHIP and a career worst 6.4 K/9.
So what happened?
Let’s take a look.
First you can quickly see what contributes to an ‘outlier’ season, having a high LOB% and low BABIP gives every opportunity for a career year, which Romero definitely had (ERA/WHIP wise) in 2011.
Looking at 2012 you can see his control has just completely abandoned him, over 1.6 walks per nine innings higher than 2011. He has given up a healthy dose of home runs in 2012 and it’s possible with his poor control habits he has been in one too many hitters counts. That may speak for an elevated HR/FB rate as well.
His BABIP is above his career norm and his LOB% is well below what he did in 2011, simply put more runners are findings way to score this season. He is still inducing a healthy ground ball rate which is a positive but they are just finding a hole.
He is giving up more line drives this season at 20.5% (17.8 career mark) and his fastball that he relies on very heavily has been hit hard this season, both the four (46% usage) and two seamer (20%). Pitch values have the four seam at a negative 1.26 per 100 pitches thrown and the two seam fastball a negative 0.49.
Romero’s change-up (thrown 19% of the time) is the only pitch with a positive run value but even that pitch has been way less effective this season. His velocity has been down about 1 MPH which has led to speculation of some sort of injury possibility but there has been nothing said and Romero still appears healthy.
Let’s have a look at plate discipline and contact rates:
Batters are certainly making better contact, chasing outside pitches less and Romero is not missing near as many bats. His first-strike percentage has gone from 57.9 in 2011 to a measly 52.4 in 2012 – consistently giving the batter the upper hand in most at-bats.
I have thought that perhaps a taxing workload over the past three seasons (178, 210, 225) has started to catch with Ricky RO but that is just an unfounded guess. His control is awful this season, his velocity is slightly down, lefties continue to pound him and his normal dominance over right handed batters has completely ceased.
I wish I had a good rationale to explain his struggles but this might be something mechanical that I am definitely not qualified to diagnose or an undisclosed physical ailment but whatever it is Ricky Romero has been nowhere near his typical consistent self.
Any thoughts? Theories?