Rays manager Kevin Cash is thinking WAY outside the box in taking one of his relievers and utilizing him as a starting pitcher, but for an inning or less. This has caused considerable discussion.
Sergio Romo is an aging 35-year old relief pitcher who does not throw hard any longer and lacks the movement on his pitches he had in his heyday when he was part of San Francisco’s three World Series titles in five years. But now, he’s one of the most talked about pitchers in baseball over four games and only 3.1 innings.
Romo is part of manager Kevin Cash’s experiment and it comes about out of need. Tampa Bay went into the season with Chris Archer and Blake Snell as starting pitchers and – To Be Determined – for slots three thru five.
Cash and the Rays front office are firm believers in analytics. The bullpen was hardly set to start the season and the back end of the rotation was 50-50 at best and the numbers supported three times thru the batting order was not working.
Cash arrived at the idea, why not have the pitcher you would prefer to use start against the lower part of the batting order, rather than face arguably the opposing team’s top hitters right from the start of the game. This way, at least in theory, your pitcher goes through the opposing team’s line say 2 1/2 times, he would face their best batter’s just twice as opposed to conventional methods.
So how was Romo chosen for this role? Throughout his career, the right-handed Romo has been extremely effective versus right-hand batter, ranking second in on-base percentage allowed among active pitchers who have faced at least 1,000 hitters in that side of the box.
Though Cash did not know for sure, the Angels and Orioles had been using three RH hitters at the top of their lineups most of the season and he used Romo to start twice in each series. This worked well against Los Angeles as Romo fanned six batters in 2.1 innings over two starts, not allowing a run. He was less effective this past weekend versus Baltimore, lasting only one inning in two games and being tagged for four runs.
Will this catch on and become a thing? And how does this effective traditional baseball handicapping?
For those of us following the MLB odds to make our baseball picks, this is different. Obviously, we cannot think about a starting pitcher when considering Romo or whoever the next one Cash might choose or the next team to do this.