Another week, another Griff Bag, another hijacking. Sound about right? Because there’s a new slice of read-submitted insanity up at the Toronto Star, and… much like last week… what else do you really want us to do here on a the first morning of the week? Try to come to grips with how awful the Jays have looked against the effing Yankees this season?
Fuck that. Let’s just let Griff’s readers get under the ol’ skin and watch the magic happen (or not happen, as the case may be).
As always, I have not read any of Griffin’s answers.
If there’s a question you’d like me to answer, email it to email@example.com and maybe he’ll select it for a future mail bag. Fingers crossed!
Been reading your column/blog for years, enjoyed it immensely.
Question for the mailbag:
Is the decline of Ricky Romero unprecedented? In the sense that within the span of two seasons he went from having a 15-win/2.92ERA season in 2011 and in 2013 he has struggled in Single-A Dunedin and after two starts in Buffalo he seems to be overmatched in AAA ball.
How can someone so fundamentally lose the skills and talents that got them to the position to get a $30-million contract as a professional athlete. I know we’ve seen pitchers somewhat unexpectedly fall apart before but it’s mainly been relievers (Gagne, Axford, BJ Ryan, etc).
From a 15-win season to being barely able to strike the kids in A-ball out is mind blowing.
The Romero thing is undeniably weird, though not unprecedented. The old timers will remind you of Steve Blass, who had five better-than-decent seasons with the Pirates in the late 60s and early 70s, then suddenly, inexplicably forgot how to throw strikes. Recently there have been valuable pitchers like Rick Ankiel, Dontrelle Willis, and Jonathan Sanchez– all of them, like Romero, left-handers, oddly enough– who lost the ability to throw strikes. Granted, that isn’t a huge group for Romero to have seemingly found himself in, but this king of thing does happen (and while Ricky’s ERA and win totals are impressive, those just aren’t good enough metrics to base saying he was better than any of that group on).
Has it really happened to the Jays’ one-time ace, though? For me it’s still too early to tell. Yes, the early returns have been ugly, and I know a lot of fuckfaces out there want desperately for validation of their ignorant knee-jerk thoughts from various points along the way that Romero is finished, but it really is still only less than 20 innings across all levels in 2013.
Plus a brutal Spring Training.
Plus a full season as one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball.
Plus an entire career of not being able to get lefties out, which has probably got to be the biggest concern of all, actually. I don’t think coincidentally, in Romero’s best season, 2010, he faced the lowest single-season percentage of left-handed batters of his career, and had his most success against lefties, though they still hit him to the tune of a .343 wOBA. Twenty-five per cent of the batters he faced that year were lefties, but by the time of his dreadful 2012, the rate had climbed to 32%. Couple that increase with the .390 wOBA left-handers posted against him– which actually isn’t terribly out of line with his career rate, as from 2009 to 2011 lefties put up a .363 wOBA– and you have all the makings of the disaster that we saw.
So, for all the talk about mechanics or confidence, the fact is, regardless of whether he can throw strikes, with the book being out on him, it actually doesn’t sound entirely implausible, assuming that clubs other than the Rays employ managers competent enough to have noticed the splits, that his days as a useful big leaguer truly are over.
But the mechanics, for whatever it’s worth, are new right now, Romero did pitch in 2012 with an elbow that required surgery, and he’s struggled with command problems once before, spending three seasons at Double-A– mostly while being labelled a gigantic J.P. Ricciardi bust– from 2006 to 2008, before turning into a very productive big leaguer.
The Jays owe him $15.6-million for the next two years, plus whatever remains of this year’s $7.5-million, so he’s going to get all the time he’ll need to try and figure himself out. No, he can’t even get minor league hitters out right now, but I would certainly hesitate to just assume that it’s always going to be that way. Time will tell, but even if he does regain the ability to throw strikes, you sort of have to think that his issues against left-handed hitters, now even better known, will make it very difficult to return to the form we once saw.