Ricky Romero Captures the Spirit of the 2012 Blue Jays

There exists the idea of a kind of proof-of-concept game, that I’m rather fond of. In any individual baseball game, a player’s performance is essentially unpredictable. The range of possible outcomes spans every possible outcome, as looking at one game is no way to evaluate a player’s true talent. But it stands to reason that a guy can fluctuate around his true talent by a magnitude of only so much. Kerry Wood established in one game that he was capable of 20 strikeouts, and, say, Kirk Rueter could never have done that. Juan Pierre has had games where he’s finished with zero hits and five hits, but he’s never had a game where he finished with multiple homers or four or five strikeouts. Extreme performances are notable, because they demonstrate that a given player is capable of such an extreme performance. It’s within the error bars around his true talent.

Tuesday night, against the Tigers, Ricky Romero put together such a proof-of-concept game. Those who followed along know I don’t mean that in a good way. Tuesday night, against the Tigers, Ricky Romero faced 29 batters, and he walked eight of them while striking out zero of them. Romero and the Blue Jays, unsurprisingly, lost.

Not just any starting pitcher could go out and post a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 8:0. It takes a lot of work to walk eight batters. In the majors, it’s been proven to be difficult to strike out zero batters. Even the Red Sox version of Aaron Cook is averaging one strikeout a start. Romero showed on Tuesday that he – or at least the 2012 version of him – is capable of an ugly start of historical significance.

In terms only of walks and strikeouts, this is the ugliest start ever. Sid Hudson walked a dozen Tigers without striking a single one of them out. That was in 1948. The most recent starter to post a ratio worse than 8:0 was Jose Guzman, at 9:0, in 1991. Before that, you’d have to go back to 1971, and before that, you’d have to go back to 1951. The most recent starter to post a ratio of 8:0 was Greg Reynolds in 2008, and the less said about Greg Reynolds, the better. Before that, the most recent 8:0 start happened in 1982.

It’s clearly not impossible to do what Romero did, but what he did was something very rare and it’s a minor miracle he came away allowing only five runs. Romero did settle down in the middle innings, but his bookends were hideous. With two outs and a runner on third in the first, for example, Romero walked Prince Fielder on four pitches. Then he walked Jhonny Peralta after getting ahead 0-and-2. Then there was this four-pitch sequence to Delmon Young:

With the bases loaded, Romero issued a four-pitch walk to Delmon Young. Not all of the pitches were completely terrible, but none of them were strikes, and we’re talking about a four-pitch walk to Delmon Young with the bases loaded, remember. According to the leaderboards, there are currently 140 qualified position players. Young’s walk rate is the fifth-worst. He’s got a lower walk rate than Starlin Castro. He’s got a lower walk rate than Tommy Hanson, batting.

This isn’t the first time Romero has struggled in 2012. In fact, his entire 2012 has been a struggle, but this isn’t the first time he’s messed around with miserable walk and strikeout numbers. He had six and one on June 27, and six and one on July 25. He had five and zero on May 13. Ricky Romero has previously been talked about as a guy who might be an ace, and while he never truly qualified for that label, he did inarguably have the talent, and so his 2012 has been a nightmare. It’s been a 2012 that’s captured the spirit of the ballclub around him.

People overuse the team/season-in-a-nutshell technique, and in a lot of ways it’s too easy. There are parallels you can find between almost anything and almost anything. If you forgive me, though, you can see a lot of the Blue Jays in Romero’s 2012 campaign. Romero can function here as our nutshell. He is a capable shell of a nut.

The Blue Jays came in as a talented team – not as the most talented team, but as a more talented team than many – and for a while they hung around. They peaked at five games over .500 toward the end of May, and as late as June 7 they were within two games of first place. Then everything began to fall apart with merciless haste, unfairly and inexplicably. The Jays’ pitching staff has been absolutely ravaged by injuries. Jose Bautista got hurt. J.P. Arencibia got hurt. Brett Lawrie got hurt. The two members of the rotation who’ve taken every turn have been Romero and Henderson Alvarez, and Romero has turned into a complete mess while Alvarez has struck out fewer batters than Brandon Lyon. You might be aware of how unfortunate a season the Padres have had. The Padres have had nothing on the Blue Jays. The team the Blue Jays have been fielding has lately not looked at all like the team the Blue Jays were supposed to be, in ability and identity.

Here’s where the Romero/Blue Jays parallels fall apart, though: the Blue Jays will, presumably, recover from their injuries in time. They should have less bad luck in the future, and they should think about brighter days in 2013. Romero might be far more challenging to fix. He’s only 27, and his stuff is all still there, but thanks to his strikeouts going away and his walks happily filling the void, Romero’s xFIP has gained more than a full point from last year. Romero, probably, is not unfixable. That which in theory can be fixed does not always get fixed.

So we’ll wait to see what Ricky Romero becomes down the road. If Romero’s Tuesday night against the Tigers was anything, it was a tortured cry for help.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Woodman
Member
3 years 10 months ago

Perhaps he could “lead” the Jays to a top-5 draft pick, or close to it.

Josh A
Member
3 years 10 months ago

I watched this entire game, but most of it was through the blurred vision of tears. The 2012 Blue Jays make me sad.

Damaso's Burnt Shirt
Guest
Damaso's Burnt Shirt
3 years 10 months ago

2012, the year Murphy’s Law took a dump on the Blue Jays.

Darryl
Member
3 years 10 months ago

*Sigh*

Ed
Guest
Ed
3 years 10 months ago

Jose Molina would have framed that third GIF as a strike.

Sean
Guest
Sean
3 years 10 months ago

It looks like he has zero confidence and is just trying to aim the ball in the last three gifs. I still can’t believe how far this guy has fallen in just one year, he looks like a shell of his former self

bc
Guest
bc
3 years 10 months ago

You can “see” confidence in a gif? Awesome. Are there other mental-state attributes that are visible to you? Like, can you see Ricky’s repressed regret over breaking up with Miss USA?

Ricky Romero
Guest
Ricky Romero
3 years 10 months ago

I regret nothing. Speak for yourself.

Sean
Guest
Sean
3 years 10 months ago

Now that you mention it, that seems like a plausible explanation for him throwing that changeup like a little girl lol

Miss USA Rima Fakih
Guest
Miss USA Rima Fakih
3 years 10 months ago

You don’t regret nothin Ricky? Oh yah? How come you texting me like 100 times a day? You’re so over me that why you were standing on my lawn crying like a baby Thursday night? And why you calling my mom for? She can’t do nothin for you. Stop writing sh*t on baseball sites and grow up. ?????

sk
Guest
sk
3 years 10 months ago

you realize that pitcher’s have brains don’t you? and that such a thing as confidence exists in this brain thing? and that the Blue Jays coaching staff have repeatedly talked about Romero lacking confidence? guess not… yeah just tell him to fix his release point. im sure they haven’t thought of that yet.

Radivel
Guest
Radivel
3 years 10 months ago

Romero’s post game interview was depressing, he sounded and looked small and shattered.

This whole Jays season really makes me wonder about how the team will respond, injury-wise, in 2013. I hope it isn’t more of the same.

sk
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

I think Jeff is right that Romero’s struggles aren’t because his “stuff” is gone – it seems to still be there. And having watched almost all of Romero’s starts this year, it appears to me that whatever mechanical and control problems are plaguing Romero are due primarily to fear, severe anxiety or even depression that snowballs after each disastrous start.

With Zach Greinke’s past struggles, and Aubrey Huff going on the DL this year to deal with anxiety, I hope that the culture surrounding psychological struggles in baseball is changing and players aren’t subjected (and don’t subject themselves) to the old school tough guy bullshit, when not addressing these problems could very well destroy their careers and wreak longterm havoc on their psyches.

bc
Guest
bc
3 years 10 months ago

Are you diagnosing a serious mental health issue based on how well someone can play baseball? Maybe Romero doesn’t throw enough strikes because he suffers from a “severe” anxiety disorder. But is that the most likely explanation? Wouldn’t you need to clinically assess him first before concluding that? Not to mention fingering him for depression as well.

Dr. Baseball Freud
Guest
Dr. Baseball Freud
3 years 10 months ago

Based on Romero’s change-up over the last few starts, I’d say it’s pretty clear he has unacknowledged anger towards his father based a rivalry stemming from juvenile pyscho-sexual desire for his mother. Also, his release point is a little off.

Mario Mendoza
Guest
Mario Mendoza
3 years 10 months ago

Well the Jays should definitely do something before this becomes a mental problem. Getting shelled relentlessly can’t be good for your confidence.

Gabby
Guest
Gabby
3 years 10 months ago

Omar Vizquel has Cotard Syndrome. Book it.

LTG
Guest
LTG
3 years 10 months ago

For those of us who didn’t study abnormal psychology (or watch a recent episode of “CSIIS and Order: New Miami”): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotard_delusion

sk
Guest
sk
3 years 10 months ago

im not diagnosing anything. im suggesting giving the guy a break and getting him some help beyond just berating him about his release point. not just piling on and saying how terrible he is. this is a human being. not just a stat line on a baseball card.

Sheldon
Guest
Sheldon
3 years 10 months ago

Dreams wistfully of the alternate universe where Toronto took Tulowitzki instead of Romero…..

Big Jgke
Member
Big Jgke
3 years 10 months ago

HA! I’m surprised it took this many comments to get to this one. Romero should have ‘Not-Tulowitzki’ on the back of his jersey.

dnc
Guest
dnc
3 years 10 months ago

I prefer to believe there is no alternate universe where the Mariners still take Jeff Clement over Tulowitzki, therefore your alternate universe cannot exist.

Big Jgke
Member
Big Jgke
3 years 10 months ago

In all variations of all possible universes, Bill Bavasi is terrible, and therefore, so are his Mariners. He’s a universal constant. Like Pi.

LTG
Guest
LTG
3 years 10 months ago

But there must be possible worlds in which he was never born and, so, is not the GM of the Mariners.

Jake
Guest
Jake
3 years 10 months ago

There would also be possible worlds were Bavasi is born and GM of the Mariners but drafts Tulo anyway. E.g., the possible world where Tulo is Bavasi’s beloved adopted son and is drafted out of nepotism; or the possible world where Bavasi has Tourette’s and accidentally says “Tulowitizki” when he means to draft someone else. So the logical necessity “Bavasi is terrible” does not entail Jeff Clement being drafted by the Mariners in every universe. Just in most of them. Which unfortunately (for those in Seattle) includes the one we inhabit.

Nadingo
Guest
Nadingo
3 years 10 months ago

How in Felix’s holy name did Sid Hudson manage to only allow 2 runs while allowing 6 hits and walking 12 in 8 2/3rds innings? 16 runners stranded? How often does that happen?

Atari
Guest
Atari
3 years 10 months ago

That makes me wonder what the record is for greatest number of baserunners stranded in a 9 inning game by a starter? I have no idea where to look that up.

dnc
Guest
dnc
3 years 10 months ago

Were they all stranded, or were some erased via double play and/or caught stealing?

Pinstripe Wizard
Member
Pinstripe Wizard
3 years 10 months ago

He only walked 3 through 5 innings, then 9 after that. Clearly this guy had gotten tired. His teammates should have sent a text message stating their anger at the manager for leaving him in too long.

Dainer's Hubris
Guest
Dainer's Hubris
3 years 10 months ago

That boxscore was indeed amazing. Three of the Tigers seven hits were by their starting pitcher. Two runs on 20 baserunners, and they didn’t even hit into a double play. And the ten innings only took 2h25m!!!

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 10 months ago

Wait I’m confused – “In terms only of walks and strikeouts, this is the ugliest start ever.” But then the rest of the paragraph is devoted to listing uglier starts? (worse in terms of BB’s and K’s, that is)

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 10 months ago

Never mind – “this” referring to the linked game discussed in the next sentence, not “this” as in “this Romero start.” I stand (self)-corrected.

Rob
Guest
Rob
3 years 10 months ago

I was confused as well, until I realized that the “ugliest start ever” referred to was what the text was linking to, not Romero’s start.

The Nicker
Member
Member
The Nicker
3 years 10 months ago

I was at this game last night. In a way, it may have been just as frustrating to watch as a tigers’ fan.

9 bb (including the one from Lincoln), 0 k, 2 errors (with another horrible fielder’s choice decision, so essentially 3 errors), 5 runs! I was going to flip out of the tigers blew this game in the later innings, which they almost did.

I couldn’t believe how many times farrell left romero out there in a jam, and almost every time it worked!

Coodle
Member
Coodle
3 years 10 months ago

Ace, they (friends) said.

Spike
Guest
Spike
3 years 10 months ago

Romero good buy low opp?

dnc
Guest
dnc
3 years 10 months ago

There’s plenty of opportunity to buy him low, sure.

siggian
Guest
siggian
3 years 10 months ago

Doubt AA sells him though. The Jays need pitching in 2013 and removing RR just adds another hole for AA to fill.

I think the Jays are just going to stick with RR and hope he figures it out between now and next April.

Big Jgke
Member
Big Jgke
3 years 10 months ago

Edwin Jackson and Shaun Marcum sure would look good in the Jays rotation next year.

ALEastbound
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Not at the expense of two quality cost controlled everyday position players. Especially one with the upside of Lawrie.

UKJaysFan
Guest
UKJaysFan
3 years 10 months ago

I think Big Jgke was referring to the fact that both Marcum and Jackson are free agents after this season, not bemoaning their respective trades.

Big Jgke
Member
Big Jgke
3 years 10 months ago

Of course as FA’s, the fact that they were both previously Jays is coincidental.

Trenchtown
Member
Trenchtown
3 years 10 months ago

Great, another typical hater piece form Fangraphs. Just wait until the Blue Jays are stomping over the rest of baseball. Haters

siggian
Guest
siggian
3 years 10 months ago

How is this a hater piece? Ricky was mediocre to start the year and rode the wave of run support to get 8 wins. Since then, he has devolved into being terrible. He has moments where his control completely deserts him and last night is just another example.

tanbarkie
Guest
tanbarkie
3 years 10 months ago

This is a parody of that Angels fan post from Jeff’s first Fangraphs article, right?

Trenchtown
Member
Trenchtown
3 years 10 months ago

Yes

Big Jgke
Member
Big Jgke
3 years 10 months ago

That first pitch .gif looks extremely close to a strike.

Matty Brown
Member
Member
Matty Brown
3 years 10 months ago

Imagine Morrow and Santos and Hutch stay healthy and Romero pitches like the past 2 years.

Batts
Guest
Batts
3 years 10 months ago

I like to imagine I’m a viking.

Radivel
Guest
Radivel
3 years 10 months ago

I think you mean the two years previous to this one. In the past two years, he’s been pretty bad in one of those.

Jake
Guest
Jake
3 years 10 months ago

Imagine Morrow is healthy and Ricky is a robot like in that Twilight Zone episode and he strikes out everyone he faces. That would be cool.

Folgermann
Guest
Folgermann
3 years 10 months ago

Imagine Romero’s arms grew to 60 feet long so when he releases the ball it’s right in front of the batter. He would be impossible to hit. He’d be even better than that robot.

Jake
Guest
Jake
3 years 10 months ago

I dunno, Romero with his 60-foot arms flopped out on the diamond like limp fire hoses would mean he couldn’t field anything and his infielders would be tripping over them all the time. Just trying to walk out of the club house with those massive noodles dragging behind him would be tough, with the arms getting tangled up in chairs and knocking the ballboy down.
Robot Romero > Long Arm Romero

ALEastbound
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

I can live with 8 BB (not really) but walking Delmon Young is almost statistically impossible. Even for RR.

everdiso
Member
everdiso
3 years 10 months ago

This year has been a mysterious sudden return to Ricky’s less than stellar AA career.

bluejaysstatsgeek
Member
3 years 10 months ago

Has anyone really analyzed his release point? I looked at about four games, two from last year, when he was good and two from this year when he has been bad. It looked like the release point was higher last year.

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