(After a brief break from posting, I’m back and with more Sergio Romo slider porn.)
One of my favorite pastimes is talking about Sergio Romo. I’m constantly amazed by the slider; the command; the everything. He’s easily one of my favorite Giants and when I sat down today to run though some numbers, I was a little surprised at what I found.
The earliest reference I can find to Sergio Romo on this website is the following sentence that I wrote way back in 2007:
Romo had a very good year with San Jose, posting an ERA of 1.36 in 60-some innings. He’s old for his league (25 years old) and his fastball doesn’t go much past 90 mph but his command and control are very, very good.
It’s kind of a ho-hum quote: doesn’t throw hard, doing pretty well, old for his level. That’s pretty much the collective scouting report on Romo at the time. He was a pitcher that varied arm angles, used deception, and had great results wherever he pitched — but without top notch “stuff.” He was a draft pick in the 28th round, or in baseball geography, the boondocks. His pitching line in 2007 while playing for San Jose is still one of my favorite statistical baseball lines of all time. I can’t ever recall hearing one single report on his now infamous slider.
And then it seems like the next thing you knew, Romo was in the majors doing this — often and repeatedly — to right-handed batters:
That’s Franklin Gutierrez of the Seattle Mariners taking a big cut against Romo’s slider and coming up empty. Like so many right-handed batters before him, the prospect of hitting Romo’s slider is nigh impossible.
It gets even more enjoyable if you freeze frame things:
Let’s see … the diameter of a 34″catcher’s mitt is approximately 10.8 inches. Gutierrez’s swing is at least one glove length away from baseball. Spit-balling, we can say that he most likely missed this slider by 12 inches or so. A major league batter — one that’s trained in the art of hitting baseballs — missed a pitch by a foot.
Anyways, what originally brought me to this post was a search on Baseball-Reference. I was searching for relievers that have thrown at least 200 career innings for the Giants. I then ranked them by adjusted ERA (or ERA+) and here’s what I got:
ERA+ isn’t perfect, but it’s got a lot of good aspects to it — park and league adjustments — and it’s usually quite instructive. Sergio Romo, by ERA+, ranks #1 on the all-time list for Giants relievers that have thrown at least 200 innings. The list, as you’d expect, is full of some of the best Giants bullpen arms in franchise history. Maybe my favorite thing about this list is that Sergio Romo has posted a better ERA+ — though, in fewer innings — than Robb Nen, the gold standard for bullpen excellence. Nen fit the profile of a relief ace. He threw with exceptional velocity and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a pitcher throw a slider harder than what Nen threw. That was Robb Nenn for you. He was big and imposing and scary looking and he threw baseballs really hard.
Romo, however, has done it a different way. With pinpoint command and a funky slider, he’s been one of the best relievers in franchise history. You can rejigger the numbers anyways you’d like, but in any permutation Romo is in the conversation. Fans on the outside looking in might recognize Romo as that goofy guy with a beard that pitches in San Francisco; for us, the fans, we know that he’s much, much more than that. He’s really, really good. His slider is amazing. Not bad for a reliever that in 2007 I had hoped might occasionally pitch in the 6th or 7th innings. Not bad at all.