Recently, I have seen a lot of negativity regarding left-hander J.C. Romero. It is somewhat justified as his 3.75 ERA does not speak to his performance. His BB/9 is currently higher than his K/9 (6.00 to 5.25) and he has had three appearances that qualify as “meltdowns“. From a fan perspective, he is not fun to watch because he is constantly making situations tougher than is necessary.
Last night’s game against the Reds was a great example. Romero came in to face the left-handed Joey Votto with one out and a runner on first base. He quickly fell behind 3-0 before issuing a five-pitch walk. The lead base runner, Brandon Phillips, was picked off as his attention drifted, lessening the blow of the free pass. Romero fell behind the right-handed Scott Rolen 3-0 and walked him on five pitches. Finally, Romero got ahead of the left-handed Jay Bruce 1-2, but walked him on six pitches. His final line? Three walks in one-third of an inning.
Romero has never had good control. His career average BB/9 is 5.2. That he has a 4.07 ERA and not a 6.07 ERA is a miracle. However, Romero’s wildness can be mitigated by utilizing him properly. I have mentioned many times before that Romero should be used strictly as a left-handed, one-out guy (LOOGY). Romero has a career 3.59 xFIP against lefties; against right-handers, his xFIP balloons to 5.38. Romero strikes out significantly more and walks significantly fewer lefties.
Charlie Manuel has not been putting Romero in the best situations, as he has had the platoon advantage in only 38 percent of his match-ups, down from 57 percent last year and 44 percent in 2008.
With Jose Contreras nearing his return, many are calling for the Phillies to cut ties with Romero. That is absolutely the incorrect move. Romero’s poor performance thus far can be blamed solely on Manuel’s usage. The Phillies front office knew going in what Romero’s strengths and weaknesses were; no one should be surprised when he fails after being put in statistically unfavorable positions.