But Can It Get Any Better?

In 2010 a professional clown ran for congress in Brazil.  People were ready to protest by voting for ‘Tiririca’ (slang for ‘grumpy’ in Portuguese) because they were tired of the political scandals that rocked the country.  Mindful of this his election punch line was, “things can’t get any worse.” Tiririca received the most votes of any candidate in the election and the second-most in Brazilian history.  Things CAN get worse, though.  Representatives initiated a character check and alleged that Francisco Everardo Oilveira Silva, aka Tiririca, was illiterate.  In Brazil, people must be literate to run for public office.

Ricky Romero has endured a most forgettable season.  Presently he ranks among the worst pitchers in MLB, but it didn’t start out that way.  By the end of April, he had a 3.18 ERA and TOR was 4-1 in games he started.  He wasn’t pitching great, but he started 2011 slowly so there was no cause for alarm.  After all, the Jays were 7-11 in his starts by the All Star break in ’11 when Ricky really got it going.  They finished 18-14 in games he started.  So there was plenty of reason for optimism when April 2012 rolled into May.

But he didn’t get better.  Alarmingly, he seemed to get worse.  And he kept getting worse.  Mercifully the All Star break came along.  But, hold on a minute.  By the 2012 All Star break, his record was 8-5.  That’s better than 7-9 in ’11, isn’t it?  Taken at face value, yes.  Digging a little deeper, one discovers hidden interpretive treasure.

Perhaps the key difference was the offense.  In ’11, the Jays’ scored 68 runs in his 18 starts before the All Star game, or 3.77 runs per start.  TOR scored five or more runs five times in those games, but 26 of those runs came in only two games.  Contrast those figures to 2012 when the offense scored an astonishing 116 runs in his 18 starts before the All Star game, or 6.44 runs per start.  TOR scored five or more runs eleven times in Ricky’s starts this season.  The offense matured, and scored an incredible number of runs to prop up Ricky Romero.

Even while receiving all the run support that he did, Romero began to lose.  TOR beat MIA 12-5 on June 22.  Ricky pitched poorly, but was credited with the win.  Then TOR rolled into Fenway, and Ricky pitched poorly again.  This time he lost.  No problem: even with all their struggles, the Red Sox are still a strong team.  Then he went through an interesting five-game stretch, when he pitched poorly three times but pitched well twice.  The Jays lost all five games, and were shutout in three of them.  Hard luck?  Maybe. But surely things can’t get any worse, right?  Well, unfortunately they can.

Ricky hasn’t been credited with a win since June 22.  As we’ve already seen pitcher wins aren’t a very good indicator of…well…anything.  Consider the chart below.

ERA GS IP Hits ER BB/9 K/9 FIP xFIP WAR BABIP GB% HR/FB
2.92 32 225.0 176 73 3.20 7.12 4.20 3.80 2.9 .242 54.7% 13.2%
5.85 28 163.0 169 106 4.97 6.07 5.10 4.83 0.5 .297 53.6% 13.8%

The chart shows Ricky Romero’s last two seasons.  The middle row is 2011; the bottom row is 2012.  Some numbers are very similar (GB%; HR/FB%), but some are so much worse that it’s no wonder that Ricky is pitching as poorly as he is.  His walk rate is 55% higher than last year.  Add to that two more hits per nine innings, and it’s a recipe for disaster.  Unfortunately, ‘disaster’ is a good way to describe Ricky Romero’s season.

I’d ask “why” he’s this bad, but there’s no easy answer.  Right on this blog, several of us mused about it not very long ago.  The fact is that he’s one of, if not THE, worst pitchers in baseball.  Things are so bad now that the Jays have lifted him from his next start.  It’s a welcome reprieve for teammates and fans alike.  Can it get any worse?  Yes it can.  But can it get any better?  Investigators discovered that Tiririca was indeed literate but likely suffered from dysgraphia, so he was allowed to take office.  It’d be nice to rely on a solid Ricky Romero in 2013.  The Blue Jays sure don’t need any more professional clowns trying to make a name for themselves in MLB.

Wes Kepstro

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