Ricky Romero is having an awful year.
Of that there’s no question, no doubt at all. A terrible season.
Even when he had a sterling 8-1 win-loss record back on June 22, Romero was sporting a 4.34 ERA that would have been a career-worst had it lasted the full season and a 1.343 WHIP that was his highest since his rookie year. Romero was also among the league leaders in walks, his record more a product of the 109 runs the Blue Jays had scored for him over the 15 starts, an average of 7.27 per game.
Since his last win, the offence has dried up for Ricky — at one point the Blue Jays scored a total of one run over five straight Romero starts — and his pitching has gotten worse. He’s now lost ten consecutive decisions and is sporting an ugly 7.69 ERA and 1.961 WHIP in his last 11 starts.
As bad as this year has been, Romero may have hit rock bottom in the first and second innings of his start in Detroit Tuesday night. With a runner on third and two out in the first — the runner on as a result of a slow chopper to third beat out by Austin Jackson — Romero appeared to pitch carefully to the dangerous Prince Fielder and walked him on four pitches.
That opened the floodgates, as Romero followed by walking five of the next seven batters he faced, throwing only 11 of 35 pitches for strikes. Rock bottom. Only by fortune did the Tigers finish the second inning leading by only three runs.
For the night, Romero walked a career-high eight and did not strike anyone out. He’s only the ninth pitcher to walk that many in a game without a strikeout since 1969, though one of the others, Rick Sutcliffe, went on to win a Cy Young award five years later.
Romero insists he’s not hurt, and he hasn’t suffered the drop in velocity that would indicate an injury, so the easy answer isn’t there. It’s been almost a season-long quest to figure out what’s wrong with Ricky, and no one has been able to come up with anything.
I’m hoping, for Romero’s sake, that the answer is painfully simple: He’s having an awful year.
So simple it’s painful, I realize, but if you look back over the years, it’s very easy to find good major-league starting pitchers who have had a very bad year mid-career and simply gotten past it and hopped right back on the path to stardom.
Tim Lincecum has won two Cy Young awards and had four straight all-star seasons coming into this year — and even with a losing record in 2011 had a 2.74 ERA. This season, the Giants’ righty had a 5.45 ERA and 1.496 WHIP heading into his Tuesday night start. Numbers that were only a hair better than Romero’s.
Jon Lester, an all-star the last two year, is getting smacked around this season to the tune of a 5.03 ERA.
Justin Verlander won the American League’s Cy Young and MVP last season, and could well win another Cy this year, but in 2008, he went 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA and 1.403 WHIP.
Tim Hudson has been a perennial Cy Young contender, but in 2006 had a 4.86 ERA and 1.438 WHIP. Cliff Lee had a 6.29 ERA and 1.521 WHIP in 2007.
Going back in Blue Jays’ lore, the great Dave Stieb had an inexplicably awful year in 1986, posting a 4.74 ERA and 1.590 WHIP, then went back to being one of the best pitchers in baseball in from 1988-90, a run that included his streak of three one-hitters over four starts.
Pat Hentgen had a stinker right in the middle of a five-year span of terrific work, with a 5.11 ERA and 1.625 WHIP in 1995, the year before he won his Cy Young.
I point these things out not to excuse the year Romero is having. He himself has referred to it as a nightmare. I point these things out to show that all is not lost, that he’s far from the first star pitcher to whom this has happened, and many who have suffered the same fate have completely shrugged it off the next season.
It’s been painful to watch, as has the last month or so been for Blue Jays’ watchers in general, and now the reserves aren’t coming back as quickly as we’d thought, at least not Brett Lawrie, and that just serves to rub some more salt in the wound. Lawrie’s rehab in Dunedin has been shut down for at least a week — he felt more discomfort in that ribcage. As for Jose Bautista and Adam Lind, their rehab game in Dunedin Tuesday night was rained out, so they’ll head up to New Hampshire to join the Fisher Cats after a simulated game on Wednesday. The Blue Jays are hopeful of having at least Bautista back with the big club for their series in Baltimore this weekend.
Please honour the Voice of Summer in Canada, Tom Cheek, by casting a vote for him to get on the final ballot for the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence, immortalizing him in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The first round of fan voting is open until 5:00 p.m. ET on Sept. 7, and that will pare the list of 222 down to 40 finalists. That list will be cut down to three in the second round of voting, which begins on September 10th.
You can vote once a day by going to www.facebook.com/baseballhall. You have to “like” the page, then find the link to “Frick Award ’13″ and cast your vote for Tom Cheek. Please do it once a day, every day, in memory of the man who helped make so many memories for us. Thank you!