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Ricky Romero: Surprise on the AL ERA Leaderboard

Every year when the regular season ends, I breathe a sigh of relief. As much as I love baseball, it’s a long year and it feels great to finally relax and really take in everything that had just happened. And of course, as a fantasy player, I am already looking forward to what might happen next year. Ricky Romero is a name that is rather surprising to see on the AL ERA leaderboard. Let’s see what we should expect from him next season.

Romero finished sixth in the AL in ERA, after ending 2010 with a less impressive, yet still solid ranking of 17. He has now seen his ERA drop significantly each of the past two seasons, while SIERA tells us that his skills have improved only marginally. Romero nearly possesses the holy trifecta of skills, striking out over 7 batters per 9, displaying about average, but improved, control, and inducing grounders at an excellent rate.

However, as with most cases, Romero relied on some great fortune to move near the top of the ERA leaderboard. His BABIP and LOB% were much better than the league average and marks he has posted in his short career previously. This has caused his 2.92 ERA to come in well below his 3.63 SIERA and 3.80 xFIP. As a result, just based on luck regression alone, his ERA will rise next year.

The good news is that his velocity actually jumped over a full point this year and may have contributed to the small increase in his SwStk%. Speaking of SwStk%, his 9.6% mark typically would match with a higher strikeout rate than he has posted. Therefore, it would not shock me if he was able to push his K/9 into the 7.5-8.0 range next season. Though his BB/9 and BB% declined this year, his F-Strike% was nearly identical to last year, so it doesn’t look like this control improvement was real.

So looking ahead to 2012, it is obviously extremely unlikely Romero posts another sub-3.00 ERA. However, he does have a very nice skills base and may have some strikeout rate upside. Assuming neutral luck next year, this could lead to an ERA around 3.50, which would be a bit better than his SIERA and xFIP marks of past years if a small skills improvement does materialize.