After picking up his fifth straight win with a three-hit complete game shutout over Oakland last night, a legitimate question was asked:
Is Ricky Romero one of the top-5 starters in the American League?
It’s a fair question. Ricky is 12-9 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.11 WHIP on the season, with 147 strikeouts. He is also on fire as of late. Check out the numbers in his past five starts: 5-0, 40.1 IP, 14 hits, 4 ER, 0.89 ERA, 0.37 WHIP, .107 Opponents Batting Average Against, 30 strikeouts. That is dominating stuff.
But in a league that features starters such as Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, Josh Beckett, James Shields, David Price, Dan Haren, Felix Hernandez, and Jon Lester, does Romero crack that list?
According to the Baseball Reference WAR statistic, the answer is yes. So far in 2011 Romero has a WAR of 5.1, putting him 4th among AL starters (and 8th among ALL AL players). Only Verlander (7.0), Weaver (6.1), and Beckett (5.3) are ahead of him. He looks good in other stats as well: 4th in ERA, T4th in Wins, and T2nd in Complete Games.
To me that last stat is where Romero shines. In the humble opinion of this writer, a top pitcher in the league must be a horse. A starter who goes 6 or 7 innings each time out can be effective, but not dominant. A true, dominating starting pitcher must both want to and be able to finish what he started. For Romero, this is even more important because he doesn’t have a Mariano Rivera, or a Jose Valverde, or a Jonathan Papelbom to hand the ball to. He has to grind for nine innings and protect his win.
And he does.
Not only is he tied for second with four complete games (James Shields is way ahead with nine), he is also ninth in innings pitched with 175. He has pitched those innings in 25 starts – two fewer than Verlander and Sabathia (1-2 on the IP list), and one fewer than Weaver, Hernandez, Haren, Ervin Santana, and Price (all also ahead of him). He also hates to give up the ball. We all remember many occasions when John Farrell comes out in the 8th or 9th to get Romero, only to be greeted with a scowl, and the dugout to be greeted with a glove toss and a few minutes of curse-filled rants.
Desire? Check. Ability? Check.
But allow me for just one minute to play devil’s advocate, to do my best to be objective. Is Ricky Romero one of the top-5 starters in the AL? Not with what these numbers have to say:
The first number represents walks. Romero’s 63 walks is the fifth most allowed in the American League, a number that is too high. Translate that into a BB/9 number and you get 3.24, a figure substantially higher than Verlander (1.86), Haren (1.28), Weaver (2.01), and Sabathia (2.14).
The second number is Romero’s 2011 ERA vs. Boston. In two starts against the Red Sox, Ricky is 0-2 with 11 runs allowed in 8.2 IP. Small sample size? Maybe – but in his career he isn’t much better. 11 career starts, only 52.1 IP, with 47 runs allowed for an 8.08 ERA. He has also tossed 35 walks en route to a 2-6 lifetime record vs. the BoSox. Of course, Boston plays in the AL East, and is one of the main hurdles that Jays need to overcome in order to make it back to the postseason.
But here is an encouraging sign – the walks are coming down. In his past five starts his BB/9 is a more respectable 2.45 (11 walks in 40.1 IP). The number is even better in his past three starts: 1.50 (4 walks in 24 innings).
Another encouraging sign? The Jays still have six games left against Boston. Odds are that Rickywill start at least one of them. With the kind of roll he’s on now, and with the team behind him full of confidence, he will not get rocked again.
And Devil’s Advocate be damned – in my AL, Ricky Romero is in the top-5.
Any day of the week.