I’ve been a fan of Sergio Romo since his breakout season in the California League last year. His numbers from that year are, as the kids say: video game numbers. He struck out 104 hitters in 65.2 innings pitched. It was an impressive season. But, Romo never got much pub from prospect hounds because his arsenal of pitches was described as ‘average’. That’s code talk for: “He doesn’t have intimidating (read: goofy) facial hair and he doesn’t throw 95mph HEAT!”
Romo’s pitches all graded out as average across the board. Average fastball. Average slider. Average changeup. Average curveball. But, Romo had above average control and command of the strike zone. Letting him stick his pitches wherever he wanted them. Think of him as the anti-Zito. He also slings the ball and will mix up his arm angles, adding in an element of deception to his pitching style.
I think sometimes that when relievers come into the game, we want them to fit the reliever archetype. They must have an element of intimidation. This is often achieved through poor facial hair choices or goofy celebratory antics. And they must throw the heat. We all want heat. We’re a nation addicted to the radar gun. This is why Brian Wilson will probably have more fans than Segio Romo. He has that little soul patch and some tats. That’s a check for the facial hair. If and when he converts the save, he’ll drop down that goofy ‘X’ sign he makes when all the players are running onto the field. That’s a check for the antics. And Wilson throws in the mid-90′s, further adding to his appeal. Check, check, and check.
Romo is the opposite of the reliever archetype. He doesn’t have crazy facial hair. He doesn’t initiate celebratory flailing on the level of K-Rod when he strikes a guy out. He doesn’t give props to MMA — I’ll never understand why Wilson does that — via a series of wrestling moves when he throws a clean inning. And he probably won’t dance an Irish jib like Papelbon. On a good day his fastball might top 90mph. He’s almost boring.
Boring isn’t bad because he’s also been very good. He threw 3 innings of relief against the Dodgers and didn’t give up any runs. When was the last Giants reliever that threw 3 or more scoreless innings of relief in 2008? It’s only happened 4 times this year. Romo has done it twice. Most recently before yesterday on September the 2nd. Pat Misch did it in June and Keichii Yabu did it in May.
Here’s some plots from Romo’s relief appearance against LA yesterday.
First, the basics. Romo primarily threw his fastball in relief. Of 33 total pitches, 24 of them were fastballs. He’s getting great movement in on right-handed batters with his fastball. It’s moving, on average, 10.35 inches in on righties. That’s nearly 6 inches more horizontal movement than Tim Lincecum is getting in on righties with his heater. And Lincecum’s fastball has nice movement. So, despite some velo concerns about Romo coming out of the minors, an average of 88.7mph on his fastball, his movement looks to be very, very good. His slider and curveball are breaking 7-8 inches away from righties. Romo is a right-handed pitcher and his breaking stuff will move away from RHB’s. Neither his curve or his slider get tremendous vertical break but they move more along the horizontal axis.
Here’s the break plot, horizontal and vertical, on these pitches.
You can see how the fastball (green grouping) drastically moves in on RHB’s. The slider and curve might be having some crossover, but they are moving away from RHB’s. Only a couple of curves dropped below the negative markings on the vertical plane, indicating that his breaking pitches have more tilt than downward bite.
This is a plot that I was looking forward to doing. Romo will vary his release point depending on situation and this plot shows that. You can see where he dropped down a few times to sling two fastballs and one slider. Otherwise, his release point grouping looks pretty consistent. It’ll help Romo if he can mix his pitches when he drops down. That will help to keep hitters on their toes if they know that they could get more than one pitch from that angle instead of just a breaking ball over-and-over.
Our last plot is pitch location based on pitch-type. Romo threw his fastball in all sections of the strike zone. You can see that his control was as advertised. Everything was near, in, or around the strike zone. He worked his slider in the zone and his curve was more likely to be thrown outside of the zone. Romo threw 11 pitches to left-handed batters, all 11 of them were fastballs. Makes sense because the fastball will cut away from lefties. He threw all of his breaking pitches, the ones that move away from RHB’s, to right-handed hitters. Looks to be a good game plan to attack hitters. Kudos to Molina and Romo.
A bunch of stuff to like about Romo. His control looks to be very good — he’s only walked 8 hitters in 31.1 innings pitched — and he’s getting some great horizontal movement on his heater. Romo should take over Tyler Walker’s 8th inning setup role in 2009 and if Brian Wilson is traded, injured, or inneffective, he could work his way into the closers role at some point. That is, if he’s not accidentally DFA’d by next year.