Toronto Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero finished 10th in Cy Young award voting last season after posting career best marks in nearly every pitching statistic across the board, including ERA, ERA+, Innings Pitched, Strikeouts, WHIP, Complete Games, and Shutouts.
For the third straight season Romero saw his ERA improve while his innings pitched total increased and both his H/9 and BB/9 decreased. These are all good indicators that a pitcher is improving and could likely have an even better season on the horizon but I fear that is not the case for Romero and I believe luck played a part in his All-Star level 2011 season.
Romero’s ERA+ was the sixth best in the American League and ninth best in all of baseball at 146. But this was largely thanks to an outlier .242 BABIP. Romero came into the 2011 season with a career BABIP of .310 which is not all that high given his 54.6% groundball rate.
Romero’s FIP was 4.20 which is slightly below the league average and 1.28 points higher than his ERA. In Romero’s previous two seasons he has not had a difference in FIP and ERA greater than 0.09. And Romero’s SIERA, which has been tested and is most accurate when predicting one’s future ERA, have also never had a greater difference than 0.09 until last season when his SIERA was 3.78 and 0.86 runs above his ERA.
Romero’s 7.12 K/9 also saw a slight decrease from his career 7.31 K/9 rate going into 2011. Romero’s strikeout rate was fine from the beginning of the season to the beginning of August with a K/9 rate of 7.93 through his first 22 starts and 151 innings pitched. Romero was averaging 92.2 mph on his four-seam fastball and 91.6 mph on his two-seam fastball.
Over his final 10 starts and 74 innings pitched from early August until the end of the year Romero saw his K/9 drop to 5.47 and his four-seam fastball fell to 91.8 mph while his two-seam fastball fell to 91.2 mph. That is not a major loss in velocity but it is one full mph less and almost 2.5 less strikeouts per nine innings. Not surprisingly, he also gave up 12 of his 26 homeruns in those final 10 starts but, surprisingly, he only had a 2.80 ERA in those final 10 starts thanks to a very low BABIP.
Given the amount of luck that was involved in Romero reaching a career best 2.92 ERA last season I find it very hard to believe that he can duplicate his 2011. The decrease in strikeout rates also leaves me just a little worried. However, this does not mean I expect bad things from Romero in 2012. I would temper my expectations and realistically look for Romero to post something along the lines of his 3.78 SIERA from last season and not his 2.92 ERA.
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and the Florida Marlins at ESPN’s SweetSpot site Marlins Daily. You can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert. Be sure to follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt