Ricky Romero. ‘Nuff Said.

Do you want to talk a little bit about dominance?

Here is a line for you: 8 IP | 1 H | 12 K | 10 GB | 2 BB | 2 FB

Jays sophomore pitcher Ricky Romero threw the game of his life on Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox. The southpaw did not allow a ball out of the infield until the seventh inning; the second – and only other fly ball of the night – came on Alex Rios‘ two-run homer that ended Romero’s no-hit bid in the eighth.

Known as a ground-ball pitcher, Romero worked down in the zone and away from the White Sox hitters, many of whom are known for being pull happy. It was a smart approach and with all his pitches working last night, Romero was able to execute with repeated precision. Both his command and control were impeccable with all four of his pitches: four-seam fastball, cutter, change-up, and curve. He has good fastball velocity for a lefty, and he sat between 89-93 mph with the heater for most of the night, but it was Romero’s ability to keep the hitters guessing that led to his success on the mound.

Of his 12 strikeouts, eight came on the change-up, two on the fastball, and two on the curve. Romero’s ground-ball outs came with the fastball (six) and the change-up (four). Clearly, the hitters could not pick up the difference between the fastball and the change-up. His delivery was smooth and effortless.

Romero primarily used his curveball to get ahead in the count early on, often with the first pitch. Although it wasn’t a strikeout pitch for him in most at-bats, the ability to command it helped him set up his knock-out pitches. When a pitcher can command three pitches and get consistent outs with two, he’s going to have a lot of success, as we saw with Romero.

As good as the former No. 1 draft pick was, I want to take a minute to also mention catcher John Buck. The former Royals backstop may be the best free agent signing that the Jays have made in the past few years. He’s off to a pretty good start with the bat, but his true value to the team lies in his work behind the dish. In his first week with the Jays, Buck has clearly earned the trust of the Jays starters.

Rarely have I seen a shake of the head to suggest a disagreement in the pitch selection. The veteran catcher is known for having a game plan detailed before each contest. He appears to be an excellent receiver and he’s created close plays on throws to second base where it appeared the runner would be safe by a country mile.

Although it’s very early, the Jays club is second in the American League in xFIP at 4.01 (fourth in ERA at 3.19). The club is also third in walk rate at 3.05 BB/9. These numbers are significant given that the club has a patch-work starting rotation made up of young hurlers, converted relievers, and veterans returning from significant injuries. Buck, no doubt, deserves a lot of credit for that, as does new pitching coach Bruce Walton.

After eight successful games by the Jays, we should not shift our expectations. It’s still going to be a long season and the club could very well end up with a losing record. However, it’s clearly not going to be all doom-and-gloom as some had suggested prior to the season.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect and rookie analysis. He also operates AstrosBall.com and can be reached via email at: marchulet@astrosball.com, or follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

22 Responses to “Ricky Romero. ‘Nuff Said.”

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  1. Renegade says:

    Great article. Went to the game last night (along with a paultry 12,000 others) and Romero made those hitters look stupid. As dominating a pitching performance as I’d ever seen and I watched Doc Halladay pitch here for years.

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  2. jar75 says:

    Dominance is the right word. I thoroughly enjoyed watching that game and I think the HR was nerves more than ability. After the HR, he induced 3 weak ground balls with ease (on 6 pitches) to finish his outing.

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  3. Baron Samedi says:

    RR Cool Jay was dealing. Of course, it had to be Rios who ended it – with a homer, no less.

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    • Cito's misery says:

      RR cool J was working through that lineup like a fat person at a buffet and Aj pierdouchy is on the watch list he is a baseball terrorist.

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  4. Will says:

    Its odd to read such praise of John Buck’s leadership & game calling abilities. When he was a Royal all I ever heard was that he was lacking in those categories, which led to Miguel Olivo becoming the preferred catcher for Zack Greinke.

    I never took those claims seriously one way or another, for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, it is surprising to see Buck written about in precisely the opposite way he was often presented in KC.

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    • Joe Petti says:

      That struck me as odd, too, especially here. I wonder what Buck’s game-calling, leadership, etc. contributed to Brian Bannister, Luke Hochevar, Odalis Perez, Kyle Davies and others over the years he was there. Somehow I think pitcher ability was determinative then and here. Flippancy aside, didn’t BP deconstruct the catcher game-calling myth a few years back?

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      • geo says:

        Actually, I heard the other day that the only Royals pitcher who preferred Olivo was Greinke – the other starters still preferred Buck, as they had in the past. But Olivo had been nominally promised the starter’s job prior to the 2009 season, so he caught more.

        What got Buck sent away was the wild pitch / passed ball problems of 2009, and while he’s a better plate blocker than Olivo, his skills in that area seemed to have deteriorated significantly over previous seasons. So had his throwing. He has had a good start with the bat this year, but it’s likely that as usual he’ll average .230 – .240, while popping a home run here and there.

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      • dustin says:

        Intangibles on Fangraphs?!

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  5. KaminaAyato says:

    What about the 2-seamer Romero has? Is that helping him miss bats considering that his FB % is all the way down to 32? I’m assuming the “CT” is his 2-seam fastball compared to the “FB” 4-seamer.

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  6. donnie says:

    Stating that Buck “… may be the best free agent signing that the Jays have made in the past few years” is more than likely an overstatement, simply for two other signings made this year as well, Gonzales and Gregg, both of whom have been lights out impressive. All in, so far, quite the round-up by AA, especially in light of recent history and Riccardi’s penchant for the likes of Royce Clayton and Kevin Millar. Yuck.

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  7. The A Team says:

    To make a fantasy question out of this, if you’re looking for a spot starter to round out your rotation and your options are Romero or Carl Pavano, who do you take?

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    • byron says:

      Seems pretty clear that Romero is your high risk high reward guy and Pavano is your slow and steady guy. Pavano’s going to post an ERA around 4-4.5, win a fair share of games in a week division, and strike out at a decent clip. Romero’s could be in AA (ball, not 12-steps) in two months or the next Greinke.

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      • jar75 says:

        I think you’re overstating his downside. I don’t see a scenario where Romero isn’t at least a decent starter.

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  8. Llewdor says:

    But maybe it should change our opinion. It’s been clear the last couple of seasons that the Jays can somehow produce average to above-average pitching seemingly out of nowhere. The projections never take this into account (how could they?), but this season it looks very much like they’re doing it again.

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  9. MikeS says:

    Good for him, but as a White Sox fan I can tell you that 4 or 5 times a year,they will face a guy for the first time and just get shut down. Usually it’s a spot start by some guy up from the minors that nobody ever heard of who will then go on to get pasted in his next 3 outings but last nights outcome was not unexpectedby White Sox fans despite the “breakthrough” of Mark Teahan the night before.

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    • The A Team says:

      I like how the ESPN guys were talking up the White Sox lineup like they were all good hitters…it’s clearly the weakness of the team as every hitter has some kind of wart.

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  10. Tyler says:

    Slightly-related question: Why is it that left-handers throw slower than righties mostly?

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    • jar75 says:

      I would assume it’s because there are fewer lefties than righties in the world. There will be a larger pool of talent among the RHP population and the best of that group make it to the majors.

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      • DL80 says:

        Great point, Jar. Hadn’t thought of it that way before. Also, fewer pitching coaches (and regular coaches) are lefties, all the way from low-level Little League to at least the majors (and probably then as well, but I’m too lazy to look it up).

        That means many (most?) lefties are not learning the right mechanics, and they either get hurt, don’t succeed enough to get even to the minors, or they simply never develop the same arm speed.

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      • Kelekin says:

        I have to agree with this. I live in Alberta, the least baseball-loving province in Canada (outside of the territories), and when I tried getting into pitching and courses for a long time, I couldn’t even FIND another lefty to work with.

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  11. Damon Stryker says:

    Good article. I agree that Romero’s the real deal and we can expect similar results this year when all of his pitches are working like this. However, I think you might be overstating the importance of John Buck. Could just be my own personal balance, but I think catchers are given too much credit when a young pitcher performs well.

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