There were a lot of reasons to be skeptical about Ricky Romero heading into 2012, but the disaster fantasy owners ultimately got was unfathomable:
124 Strikeouts (6.17 K/9)
105 Walks (5.22 BB/9)
67.4% Strand Rate
A regression is one thing, but those numbers were pitiful. There was some poor luck involved, but there also was simple plain poor performance. Now the question is if he can rediscover his form from 2009-2011, or if this is now the type of performance we should come to expect.
The first number to touch on is the strikeout rate, which was a big drop off from prior years (K/9 of 7.12 to 7.46 over his first three seasons). Over his minor league career he posted a K/9 of 7.03, but he was at 6.48 over 52 starts at Double-A.
Last season he only posted one month of a K/9 over 6.63 so it really is hard to figure out. He did start throwing his cutter more than he had in the past (22.2% compared to under 10% in the past), so his approach may have been a part of the decline in this regard.
We will have to see if he reverts back to using his cutter less in 2013, but given his history it is hard to buy into such a reduced number. He had clearly improved in recent years, so seeing him back into the high 6s or low 7s is probably realistic.
The same type of statement could be said for his control. After posting a 3.83 BB/9 in the minor leagues and 4.37 at Double-A, look at what he did over his first three Major League seasons:
- 2009 – 3.99
- 2010 – 3.51
- 2011 – 3.20
If you believe in how good he was in 2011 or not, there is just no way his control is as bad as it was in 2012. Even his minor league numbers had been significantly better and, when coupled with his Major League success, you have to expect a better year ahead.
Those two improvements, coupled with his constantly impressive groundball rate (54.4% for his career, including 53.5% in 2012) and there is reason for optimism. What really did Romero in last season was poor luck (i.e. his strand rate) as well as an elevated line drive rate.
Overall he was at 20.1%, but he had four months of at least 21.5%. Even if the other numbers are corrected, if he can’t avoid getting hit consistently hard it isn’t going to matter.
Pitching in the AL East is difficult, though the Red Sox and Yankees are not the same type of teams that they once were. Throw in the fact that the additions of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle push Romero down to the fifth spot in the rotation and things look even more promising.
I don’t believe Romero is going to be a superstar. He’s definitely not gong to be as good as he was in 2011 (2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP). He is going to be significantly better than 2012, however, and should prove to be a viable option to fantasy owners. Maybe it is just playing matchups on a case-by-case basis, but if you have an opportunity to draft him late his past success and skill set warrant the selection.
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