Bouncing BackUncategorized

Bouncing Back: Ricky Romero

There’s no nice, sugar-coated way to describe Ricky Romero’s 2012 season – once the calendar flipped to May, he was abysmal. And this wasn’t a rough stretch or two, it was non-stop. In fact, here are some of Romero’s numbers from 2012 by month:

Month

ERA

K/9

BB/9

April

3.18

6.1

3.4

May

4.82

8.0

6.0

June

7.33

4.7

4.7

July

8.04

6.3

5.2

August

4.73

5.0

5.3

September

8.05

6.6

7.6

For a pitcher who was coming off the best season of his career in 2011, and was being drafted as a top-30 pitcher, this was an unmitigated disaster. By the end of the year, he became unownable even in AL-only formats and no one quite knew why.

Well, that is to say, no one knew why his command/control had fallen off a cliff. Romero had never been a pitcher, even coming up through the minors, who was known for his control – he had a 3.8 BB/9 for his minor league career, including marks of 4.4 in Double-A and 4.2 in Triple-A. However, over his time in the major leagues, he had made great strides in that arena. During his first three seasons with the Blue Jays, he had reduced his walk rate from 10.3% in 2009 to 9.3% in 2010 to 8.7% in 2011. No one is going to confuse those numbers with that of Cliff Lee, but it was an important improvement for his game, as he saw his ERA decrease in each of those three seasons as well.

This wasn’t a Tim Lincecum situation either. Romero’s average fastball velocity for his career has been 92.2 MPH, and in 2012, it was 91.8 MPH. That’s not the type of drop in velocity which will cause a pitcher to double his ERA. Romero was also keeping the ball on the ground, as he is wont to do – his ground ball rate has never been outside of the 53-56% range in any year of his career.

Finally, once the season was over, information started to leak out about the injuries he was fighting during the season. He was shut down at the end of September with “knee soreness”, but it was the first time that it was publicly acknowledged that something was physically wrong with Romero. Once the season was over he received platelet-rich plasma injections in both knees to help rid him of tendinitis that stuck with him during the season. Then at the end of October, Romero had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.

Now at Spring Training, Romero is ready to put his 2012 season behind him – though fantasy owners are still a little too queasy to get back on the ride. And there is good reason why Romero’s value is depressed. That tendinitis in both of his knees is not something that can just be cured with surgery like the bone chips were. It’s likely something that he’ll struggle through again at some point. However, the optimism comes when talking about the elbow. Here’s what he had to say about it two weeks ago when pitchers and catchers reported:

“It feels 100 times better. I wasn’t able to rotate [the elbow] at one point, I was so sore at the end of the year. That’s when I decided we should get it checked out. Right now, it feels great, pretty much back to how it should feel.”

So what do we expect out of him in 2013? Personally, I’m essentially splitting the difference between 2011 and 2012, and anything on top of that is gravy. That ends up at around 12 wins, a 4.30 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and around 6.5 K/9. And if he really does get his mojo back, we could be looking at a top-30 fantasy SP once again. When I did my 2013-only rankings back in November, I had Romero as the #67 starting pitcher, and was the only person at Fake Teams who ranked him in the top-100.

When I did the dynasty league rankings, I had him 88th, right between Brandon McCarthy and Chris Tillman. That feels right given the risk involved, the previous track record and what we now know about his injury struggles. But what I’ve found in my leagues is that he is being left out with the trash. If you’re in a league 16 teams or shallower, there’s a good chance he’s still on the waiver wire, waiting to be scooped up. And if he’s owned, he can likely be had for a song. Guys like Ricky Romero are the perfect players to target in a dynasty league since he’s very cheap and has known upside. If you pick him up and he continues to be awful, it didn’t really cost you anything to take him on. But if he’s anywhere near his 2011 form…

Follow me on Twitter at @dynastyguru.
You can also find me at Baseball Prospectus.

The Author

The Dynasty Guru

The Dynasty Guru

3 Comments

  1. February 27, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Ricky seems to be the topic du jour. John Lott wrote an interesting article about him today as well (Link: http://sports.nationalpost.com/2013/02/26/blue-jays-pitcher-ricky-romero-using-his-sinker-in-a-bid-to-rise-again/).

    Within the article they address Romero abandoning his sinker and how despite his GB% remaining steady his LD% rose drastically (about 6%). Good stuff!

    • February 27, 2013 at 10:00 am

      I did see that, and the thing I found most interesting is that you’d think his ground ball rate would have been affected by abandoning his sinker. Yet, it wasn’t – it was still in line with his career mark.

      Well, that and the fact that Brandon Morrow checks out his rotation mates’ pitch selection at Brooks Baseball. Which is awesome.

      • February 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

        Morrow was always a favorite of mine and that’s just one more reason to love him. Very bizarre that he could generate a 53% GB rate with such a dropoff in his sinker usage. Maybe he was pitching down in the zone a ton but without the sinker movement got hit harder hence lots of GBs but also LDs? I could probably look that up but oh well.

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