This past Tuesday, Toronto starter Ricky Romero took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox. While the no-hit bid fell that inning, Romero ended the game with a career-high 12 strikeouts, allowing two runs on only one hit, an Alex Rios two-run home run.
This was Romero's second straight quality start (actual quality start, not the three runs over six innings stat). Of course, when one flirts with a no-hitter, the fantasy world takes notice. While many were quick to add Romero to their fantasy squads, it was Romero's offseason addition that could make all the difference.
Last season Romero burst on to the fantasy scene, posting a 2.36 ERA and striking out 33 in 34 1/3 innings for the month of June. Soon after, however, Romero lost command of his pitches and ended the season with a 4.30 ERA and 1.52 WHIP.
What will keep the same from happening in 2010? Romero's new weapon: the two-seam fastball.
In his first start of the season, Romero used his two-seamer only a few times, going mostly four-seam fastball, changeup, and slider. The results were good: four strikeouts to only one walk and 12 ground balls. Then, in Tuesday's start, Romero decided to go a different route. He threw 37 two-seam fastballs to only nine four-seam fastballs. The results were great: 12 strikeouts, two walks, and 10 ground balls. The White Sox only used two left-handed batters in their starting lineup. Romero was just plain dealing.
The big difference between Romero's four-seam and two-seam fastball is horizontal movement. His four-seamer sinks just a bit more, but his two-seamer sweeps horizontally in toward left-handed hitters. He throws both pitches in the low 90s with his four-seamer touching 94 mph.
Before, hitters mainly had to worry about Romero's change. Now, right-handed batters have to adjust to a fastball that tails away from them while keeping in the back of their minds that Romero can still come inside with a bit more velocity using his four-seamer. Then there is Romero's changeup, which is the great equalizer.
Velocity, movement and command. Three key components to a successful starting pitcher. Right now, Romero has all three.
Romero is young (25 years old) with strikeout potential and a more than solid ground ball rate (54% last season). As long as he can command the strike-zone, his stuff should do the rest. Maybe Romero won't be as good as he was on Tuesday night, but all the ingredients are there for a breakout season.