Here’s an idea I’m instantly regretting: instead of empty open thread posts for playoff games, as we’ve done around here in years past, each day I’m going to attempt to have a hopefully-quick look around at some splits and stats and whatever else stands out on a Jays player’s 2013 season, because… what the hell else is there to do for the next month? Or the next week. Or just today– or however long I actually continue to follow through on this exercise.

5:00 PM ET – Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis – A.J. Burnett (1.7 rWAR) vs. Adam Wainwright (6.2 rWAR)
8:00 PM ET – Los Angeles vs. Atlanta – Clayton Kershaw (7.9 rWAR) vs. Kris Medlen (3.3. rWAR)
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Ricky Romero saw little of the big leagues this year, and it was still probably too much. He pitched 7.1 innings, giving up eleven hits, eight walks, and nine earned runs while striking out five. To call his season at Buffalo uneven is being overly kind, and so you’d almost be inclined to say that his season was defined by whatever happened to his relationship with the club and the looming questions about where it goes from here.

I would go another way, though. For me, Romero’s season was defined by this: .364/.462/.570.

That is, across all levels in 2013, how left-handed hitters fared against him. That’s… uh… that’s more than a shade better Mike Trout’s overall slash line of .323 /.432/.557. So… if you were a left-handed hitter in 2013 against Ricky Romero– himself a lefty– you hit better than the best player (and the second best hitter) in the universe.

In his brief stint in the Majors, Romero was somehow even worse: 14 left-handed batters faced, eight hits, two walks, zero strikeouts.

Romero was better against right-handed hitters, but still not better enough: they hit him, across all levels, to the tune of .284/.367/.411.

So… what the hell kind of pitcher is this? What use is there for a left-handed reverse-split guy who was just as bad against right-handers this year in Buffalo than he was in the Majors in 2012 (.264/.373/.409), when he was fifth-worst qualified pitcher in baseball by FanGraphs’ WAR?

There sure as hell doesn’t appear to be one if something doesn’t change– and that, even though everybody seems to want to think it was just a pretext for trying to get his head straight, may be exactly why the Jays were hoping to alter his mechanics when they demoted him at the start of the year. It’s at least maybe somewhat buoying to see that two of the qualified pitchers in 2012 who were worse were Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, who have both bounced back outstandingly this year, but it’s still hard to see Romero joining them, particularly because of that reverse split, and the fact that teams, if he ever gets another chance, will surely follow Joe Maddon’s lead in exploiting it.

That’s sort of the scary thing: Romero has kind of always been this way.

From 2009 to 2011 Romero was worth 8.7 wins by FanGraphs, and 11.6 wins by Baseball Reference. Even looking at the leaderboards for just the lower, FanGraphs number, that was good enough to be in the top 40 of all pitchers over the span. But how many of those 40, do you think, had as atrocious a split against same-sided hitters as Romero, who– as he was putting up 11.6 rWAR(!!?!!?!)– was being hit by lefties to the tune of a .277/.358/.471.

From year to year from 2009 to 2011, Romero took big steps against right-handed hitters. They posted a .341 wOBA against him as a rookie, and the number dropped to .290 in 2010, then to .264 in 2011. He blew up real good against right-handers in 2012, which is why his season was so unbelievably bad. Why it wasn’t worse, though, was the fact that managers and teams, apart from Maddon and the Rays, remained reluctant to do the counterintuitive thing and fill their lineups with left-handed hitters when facing him.

Year-by-year, here are the weighted on-base numbers posted against him by left-handers:

2009: .378. 2010: .343. 2011: .368. 2012: .390.

Because in 2013 he faced only 14 left-handers at the big league level it would be unfair to point out that they posted a wOBA of .779 against him, but there’s that, too.

And this, I fear, is why talk of him discovering the “old Ricky” isn’t going to do anybody any good. The “old Ricky” was a reverse split mirage, getting by– as far as I can tell– largely on the assumption that as a left-hander, he’d have the most trouble getting right-handers out.

From 2009 to 2012, Romero faced a slightly higher number of left-handed hitters than fellow lefty workhorses Jon Lester, C.C. Sabathia, and Mark Buehrle, for example. But over 1000 fewer than right-handed ones like Justin Verlander, James Shields, and Felix Hernandez. And you’ll have to look a long way down the list to find your first left-hander.

Now imagine if teams had ignored Romero’s handedness and loaded their lineups as heavily as possible with left-handed hitters from the get-go. Think we’d be still holding out hope for the return of “old Ricky,” or would he be a long-forgotten blip on the Jays’ pitching landscape? And do you think, if he ever does get himself back into a position to pitch regularly in the Majors again, teams are going to be so kind as to treat him like a regular left-hander?


Comments (54)

  1. Maybe he can be one of those pitchers that can transition to an everyday position, like catcher.

    • Couldn’t be any worse than JP, amirite!? It’s just that, making that kind of switch…Ricky doesn’t strike me as one of those “pure athletes” the Jays have been keen on drafting lately.

    • this is a great comment.

    • If he can bunt, then maybe it’s worth a shot. At least he could move guys over, oppose to striking out. Then again, we already have a catcher who routinely throws balls into center field, lacking the skill of hitting a target. He has hard enough time from 60 feet, 6 inches. I could just see Reyes eyes gazing up as the ball soars 12 feet over his head.

  2. Almost makes you wonder why they saw the need to sign him long term so early. The numbers scream for a “wait and see” approach.

  3. Weren’t his numbers bad in the minors before 2009?

  4. Sad post mortem. Rest in peace Ricky. Thanks for 2011.

  5. Am I reading this correctly – are you saying Tim Lincecum is left-handed? Typo?

  6. On the bright side JPA and Ricky are destined to be battery mates once again as they do the Buffalo shuffle.

  7. Tim Lincecum is a righty, just FYI

  8. Could one say that the Rays did the Romero strategy on Salazar and Rayburn by having Young start against the former and McGee pitch to the latter?

    I wonder how much the Rays were going outside the platoon conventions beyond Ricky last year

  9. What about the bullpen as a righty specialist? It would be an oddity I know but if he could get back too sub 300 woba facing strictly righties he could have some value. Not enough too justify the contract but just the same

  10. Am I being harsh by concluding that Romero cannot make any sort of comeback as a starter or a reliever?

    • I think that’s what I was kinda saying, so… yes.

      • Is Romero’s collapse unprecedented? I cannot recall seeing this happen to another pitcher of his calibre. I don’t think sticking a fork in him is off the mark. Sure, Santana and Jimenez were worse than him in 2012, but they are still in MLB and Romero isn’t. At this stage in Romero’s career, that isn’t good, especially seeing how bad his ERA and WHIP are in Buffalo.

    • Not as a loogy

  11. Is Romero still Ham-Boning Kara Lang?

  12. AJ is look in’ like the AJ we once knew…..implosion in progress! Pitts is getting owned.

  13. It is hard to imagine Rickey becoming a starter in the majors again. Let’s not mention his name as a possibility again until there are massive, sustained changes for him in Buffalo.

  14. Ya it’s a little pointless to look into the splits when he’s getting destroyed by everyone. He can make a comeback but like Stoeten says, he can’t make a comeback by reverting to his old self. He needs to reinvent himself

  15. Him and Dontrell Willis can hang together and play the 2010 version of the show

  16. He’s still getting paid for the next few years, they should make him the new batting practice pitcher. Would do wonders for our hitters confidence.

    If he see’s actual playing time in 2014 then this team will have a similar record to 2013.
    Kid’s done.
    We need to bury him with a shovel and then bury the shovel.

  17. Long relief might be a place to hide him. Managers could be reluctant to load up a lineup with lefties mid-game. And if they did, you could throw a regular splits lefty out there. I mean, you’re paying him anyway, It might wring a WAR out of him. But I’m just spit ballin’ here (that might help too!)

  18. That graphic is a classic.
    Still the best DJF graphic ever.

  19. He needs to learn a slider to get lefties out.

  20. Griffin is taking potshots at AA for not realizing that defense is important in baseball after 10 years as a baseball executive.


    Is this the beginning of the end of the honeymoon for AA by the Toronto Sports media?

    The crack at JPA for not striking out in his marriage proposal is a low blow by Griff.

    I didn’t follow the Jays under JP Riccardi, but I remember the media hated him in 2009.

    Will the media turn on AA in 2014 if the team doesn’t get off to a strong start?

    • Expect AA isn’t a dick though

      • I feel dumber having read this.

        • The truth is it was dumb to undervalue run prevention and that was a weakness with this roster that was apparent to some (not to me) even before the season started. It was dumb of AA to be so forthcoming and admit they didn’t place enough value on defense.

          • Further, I figured Cabrera and Izturis/Bonifacio would be fine. If the FO knew these guys wouldn’t be good defenders, then Griffin is right that they were dumb. But if the FO figured they’d be OK, then they’re still dumb because they let Cabrera play LF on one leg such that he couldn’t run down routine fly outs and let Arencibia butcher inning after inning. At least Izturis and Bonifacio seemed to improve after a while.

      • It’s the annual blood-letting after a unsatisfactory year by the media – who are comfortably ensconced in their post-season Lazy-Boy chairs, with their 20/20 hindsight glasses firmly affixed to their noses.
        If JPA had had a year with less suckitude…
        If key personnel had not gone down with injuries…
        If several pitchers hadn’t struggled…
        and if only AA had utilized his time-machine and gone a few months into the future, he might have realized that Itzy and Bonifacio weren’t going to pan out according to Hoyle, and that JPA would suck harder than Miley Cyrus at a rave.

        Damn AA, and his accursed reluctance to use his time traveling DeLorean!!!
        Damn the paucity of spare parts for that 3.2 gigawatt flux capacitor.

      • Thing is, AA is the guy who obsessed over Anthony Gose, signed Hechavarria, has been aggressively promoting A.J. Jimenez, traded for Colby Rasmus and stuck with him through bad years at the plate. Griffin acting like the notion of good defence just crossed the GM’s mind for the first time this year is fucking Griff-vs.-Ricciardi-like garbage.

    • I read that yesterday, and I’m pretty sure Griffin took it completely out of context. AA said he undervalued defense and Griffin is treating it as if he said “I thought defense was completely pointless and didn’t care if my team could catch a ball.” There’s a pretty big difference there.

      It also helps that AA has shown a willingness in the past to learn from his mistakes and move forward with that new information rather than being stuck in his ways. I think that bodes well for the future.

  21. I am surprised there isn’t an automatic out clause in baseball contracts for teams that have to suffer through this kind of bullshit.


  22. I worry. Are our clicks just feeding an alcohol addiction?

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