Toronto Blue Jays: Why Ricky Romero Has Gone from Ace to Bust
2012 has truly been a tale of two seasons for Ricky Romero.
After the first two months of the season, Romero, while not looking overly spectacular was at least getting the job done.
He had a 6-1 record with a 4.04 ERA, and was hovering around all of his career averages in all important pitching categories. Jays fans were happy with the job that Ricky was doing: he was providing quality starts with veteran consistency and most importantly, winning games.
And now, after losing his seventh straight start heading into a crucial August for the Jays, many are suggesting that their proverbial "staff ace" be sent to the minors to re-discover his game.
How has Romero fallen from grace so abruptly?
In April and May, Romero made 11 starts, and in June and July, he also made 11 starts, which happens to divide up his bi-polar season quite nicely.
In April and May, in 71.1 innings, he gave up 54 hits, 38 walks, while striking out 56 batters.
In June and July, in 58.1 innings, he gave up 80 hits, 32 walks, while striking out 36 batters. His ERA was also a bloated 7.71.
So we can rule out a loss of control as the cause of Romero's struggles, as his walks-per-innings-pitched ratio rose only slightly. What's more alarming is the massive rise in hits allowed and the significant drop in strikeouts.
Clearly something in Romero's power was lost during his second half problems. While his balls-in-play percentage is the exact same as his career average, his contact percentage has risen by four percent.
When it comes down to it, batters are doing a better job of hitting Romero's pitches. Whether that's a loss of velocity or simply a matter of hitting his spots, one of his main issues is that he's not getting as many easy outs.
That's issue number one.
Issue number two, without a doubt, is luck.
Romero's batting average on balls in play (BAbip) in April and May was .240, slightly under his career average at the time. In June and July however, his BAbip rose to a .359 mark. This inexplicable rise can be attributed to Romero's struggles to hit his spots, but a 119-point rise in only 11 starts is rare and shows that he can be and should be better.
You could argue that it is because he hasn't been pitching very well that his BAbip has risen so drastically, but typically pitchers even-out back to their career averages at some point. It's not a matter of control, it seems to be more of a lack of confidence in his pitches.
Based on the seven-point rise in line-drive percentage, it seems that Romero's problems boil down to the fact that more of his pitches are being hit, and hit hard. When comparing those numbers to his career averages, it seems that a stint in the minors might be the correct solution.
Dominating a bunch of minor-leaguers and developing a better idea of how to approach batters is something that would do wonders for Romero if he can swallow his pride.
There isn't anything fundamentally wrong with Romero's pitching. He just needs more focus and confidence in the fact that he's a world-class hurler.
It sure seems like the worst timing for the Jays most talented pitcher to have a conditioning stint in AAA considering the playoffs are still a major possibility, but it just might be the best thing for Toronto's ace to recover.
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