Oddly enough, I’m not sure I need to do all that much, as it’s the easy position to take, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong either. Romo currently has 7.63 ERA, a 5.82 FIP, and a 7.69 DRA, the latter number being probably the best public run-prediction model for pitching we have. So Romo has been bad in 2017 and has pitched as badly as he’s looked so far.
But that’s not even the worst part, because he’s basically being used as a ROOGY and is still ineffective. I agree that the move to sign Romo made sense in theory, partially due to the low commitment in both years and money, but mainly because the Dodgers had an abundance of left-handed relievers but basically only Pedro Baez from the right-side that they could rely on, so signing Romo seemed to fill a hole in the roster. For his career, Romo has limited righties to a .187/.230/.321 line against a .239/.307/.368 line for lefties. While there was sign of regression in 2016 (R: .234/.272/.403 vs. L: .242/.306/.485) compared to 2015 (R: .169/.181/.286 vs. L: .366/.443/.486), it seemed reasonable that a healthy Romo could rebound to close to his 2015 form.
That has … not happened.
Limited to facing 13 lefties this year, Romo has been predictably bad, giving up a .364/.462/.455 line. However, against righties he’s also been poor, giving up all of his four homers and a .229/.315/.542 line even with a fortunate .241 BABIP.
Many of those homers came off of hanging sliders, and in that sense, Dustin’s article gave me more worry than relief.
This is the horizontal movement on his slider over the course of his career. It is the lowest of his career and the lowest since 2014, when his slider graded out at the second-lowest runs above average in his career at 3.6.
It has the most vertical movement of his career. Sliders aren’t supposed to have a ton of vertical movement.
So basically the slider isn’t sliding as much and it has a hump now that could tip off batters, which is basically a complicated way of saying the pitch that made Romo’s career sucks more than it ever has before. Pair that with the fact that he’s 34, is slider-dominant, and missed time with elbow issues last year, and it’s fair to wonder whether he’s simply done.
The hope of a turnaround basically revolves around him fixing his slider, that his swinging strike rate is still high, and that he’s still putting away hitters, but that’s basically about it. The projections don’t necessarily paint a prettier picture either, with ZiPS checking in at a 3.94 ERA, Steamer at 3.69, and PECOTA at 4.59, and that’s just based on regression without knowing his slider is the worst it’s ever been.
Furthermore, even if he does somehow recover to post these numbers, is it worth sticking with a mediocre specialist when there’s a lot more upside in the minors? Among others waiting for a shot, Grant Dayton was last year’s setup man (2.05 ERA/2.99 FIP/3.07 DRA in 2016), Adam Liberatore (in minors when Luis Avilan is back from the DL) has been effective pen arm for the last two years, and Josh Ravin flashed potential in his trial run last year (0.93 ERA/3.07 FIP/2.41 DRA). Why not keep Chris Hatcher as the multi-inning mop-up man and see if a Dayton (when fixed/healthy) or a Ravin or somebody else could turn into a high-leverage option? Plus, with the emergence of Josh Fields and Ross Stripling, the right-handed reliever problem isn’t pressing anymore.
This is, of course, the easy side to take. Romo was a long-time member of the hated Giants, fans want him gone, and he’s performing terrible, so there’s no risk in me adding fuel to the fire here. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s inherently the wrong thing to believe or that it’s a knee-jerk reaction. Depth is important, but at this point with Romo, one has to wonder how much it’s worth if it’s costing the Dodgers a long-term look at upside or a short-term blowing of wins in what seems like an increasingly tight divisional race.