Regression Risk: Why Ricky Romero Should Not Be Drafted As A SP2

Since breaking into the league in 2009 Ricky Romero has gotten progressively better, culminating in a 2011 campaign that had to excite fantasy owners about what is possible:

15 Wins
225.0 Innings
2.92 ERA
1.14 WHIP
178 Strikeouts (7.12 K/9)
80 Walks (3.20 BB/9)
.242 BABIP

If you simply look at the numbers, exactly what is there not to like?  He provided a great ERA, a great WHIP and more than enough strikeouts to get by.  He even won 15 games, something that is hard to consider a lock no matter how much talent you have (i.e. Tim Lincecum or Felix Hernandez).  With all the positives coming out of last season we should just look at the numbers and assume he is going to be a tremendous option for 2012, right?  In a word…wrong.  If you simply assume that Romero is going to thrive again you are setting yourself up for failure.

First of all is the BABIP, which clearly is a lucky number.  It came courtesy of a 14.2% line drive rate, the best number among starting pitchers who qualified for the ERA title.  In his first two years he posted line drive rates of 19.4% and 18.2%, which are much more realistic marks for us to believe.  A regression in the line drive rate will help aid the regression in his BABIP, which in turn will raise his WHIP.

He was also lucky in the strand rate department, with a 79.2% mark.  Based on that number a lone you would expect his ERA to rise this season, but when you add in an increased number of base runners and things get a little bit worse.

That’s not to say that all the numbers are bad.  Romero has consistently improved his control, after posting a 3.83 BB/9 over his minor league career.  It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him regress a little bit in the tough AL East, though it likely won’t be a huge regression (he only posted one month in ’11 with a BB/9 greater than 3.27).  There are many reasons to be concerned, but this isn’t one of them.

Romero also posts a good enough strikeout rate (7.12 K/9 in ’11) and a solid groundball rate (54.7% in ’11) to think that he will still be solid.  However, it is far from enough to offset the regression in the luck departments that we are going to see.

You also have to consider the fact that he pitches in the AL East, which means regular matchups with the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.  He was actually poor against the two super powers in 2011:

  • Red Sox – 2-2, 6.56 ERA over 23.1 IP
  • Yankees – 1-2, 4.01 ERA over 24.2 IP

In other words, you take those eight starts out and his 2011 numbers would’ve looked even more impressive.  Considering that he posted ERAs of 7.17 and 5.49 against the Red Sox and Yankees, respectively, in 2010 and the fact that he pitches in the AL East gets even more concerning.

It’s not to say that Romero isn’t going to be a good fantasy pitcher.  He has improving control, a decent strikeout rate and a good groundball rate.  The thing is, we should be looking towards his 2010 numbers (3.73 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) as realistic, not his 2011 marks.

However, that’s not how people are drafting him.  According to Mock Draft Central he is currently being selected as the 23rd pitcher coming off the board.  That’s far too early in my book given the expectations.  I would be looking at him more as a low-end SP3/high-end SP4, as opposed to an anchor of my fantasy rotation.  There is just too much risk of a major regression to be laying so much faith in him, so the chances are I will not be owning him in any league.

What about you?  Is Romero a pitcher that you are willing to draft this season?  What type of numbers are you expecting from him this season?

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Make sure to check out our other 2012 projections:

2 comments

  1. jmax says:

    Yes he pitches in the AL East but he’s been there throughout his 3yrs in the bigs. I find it hard to argue w the numbers but I don’t feel he’s reached his potential. On one hand the numbers suggest regression but on the other hand logic suggests continued improvement. He was bad against the “super powers” in 2011 but I look at it as a bigger chance of improvement.
    I think with an improving lineup the Jays should help him in the win coloumn this yr and keep him around 15 wins. Having seen him quite a bit I’d also like to add that he seemed to mature quite a bit throughout 2012.
    I believe as a SP2 he’ll be risky but his potential may be worth the risk. I’d be excited to get him as a 3 though.
    Hey how’s the draft guide coming??? And congrats on the upcoming family additiion!!

  2. Marky Mark says:

    Romero was my #5 SP last year, so I was able to be very selective in using him, including leaving him on the bench against those big dogs.

    I’d prefer you not broadcast his regression risk too loudly though….I’m trying like hell to trade him before the draft.

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