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How will Sergio Romo do this year? Will I have to make another obscenely large GIF in his honor? Let's investigate.
Something I meant to do in the offseason is break down the Jay Bruce/Sergio Romo clash, but alas, we've only time for daily Kensuke Tanaka updates now. The World Series is becoming less and less relevant by the minute, and soon it will be a distant memory. All we will have are the DVDs, the Blu-Rays, the shirts, the hats, the ballpark giveaways, the coffee mugs, the World Series Champs logo on every ticket, the sweatshirts, the lasting memory of where we were and how the air smelled and the way the birds sang the next morning as the sun rose just for us. It's going, man, it's going.
But before all that happens, let's take a brief detour back to the Bruce/Romo clash. I made a relevant GIF:
I don't know why Bruce's shirt is so gorgeous and sparkly, but it's Photoshop's fault. Anyway, I really do dwell on things like specific pitches in unlikely comebacks. And this at-bat was full of them. Which of the other teams would have won the Series if Bruce hit that ball out of the park? The Reds? Could be. I would have happy for Dusty in my own sick way, but that happiness would have been tempered by a Mat Latos champagne party. The Tigers? Yeah, could have been them. The Cardinals? Okay, probably the Cardinals. The Cardinals would have won again, and it would have been gross.
That's how close we were. Bruce swung here, not there. Romo's pitch went there, not here. Then we all made up with Barry Zito and there was confetti. Baseball!
Looking back at the at-bat, though, there were a lot fewer meatballs and back-to-the-screen swings than I remembered. My impressions of that at-bat a few months after the fact were of a tired, gassed Romo, a guy whose arm was making Lucy Ricardo-crying sounds and billowing smoke. Instead, it was a very, very careful Romo. No more, no less. Well, a little less, seeing as he completely shelved the slider for that at-bat. Not sure if that was the plan because Bruce was left-handed, or if Romo's slider was a mess early in that inning. Maybe both. Whatever, they worked it out.
Back to the present, though. Sergio Romo is the closer again. While Bruce Bochy said that there was going to be a closer-by-committee, and that the committee was going to have hearings and pass bullpen resolutions that would not be legally binding, but he said all that last year. And once Romo became a reliable save-hound, he became the closer for the end of the season and the playoffs.
As we enter the 2013 season, we know these to truths:
1. Sergio Romo is an excellent relief pitcher, one of the best in the game
This isn't up for debate anymore. Remember after the Eric Hinske home run, how there was all this debate about Romo's bigameosity, and his clutchitude, and his future as a late-inning reliever? It really happened, both in the comments here and on the talk-radio circuit. Now, those people were laughed at then, and they're laughed at now, but for a time, Sergio Romo was a reliever about whom people didn't feel comfortable.
2. For some reason, it's still hard to feel comfortable about Sergio Romo
I don't know why. Is it the 88/90-m.p.h. fastballs? The balky knee/elbow combination? The knowledge of what happens when a slider -- any slider -- is hung? Probably a combination of all three. Romo certainly doesn't look like any closer we're used to, and it adds up to the greatest reliever you'll ever be unsure about.
When Romo -- with a lot of help from Edgar Gonzalez -- blew a save for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, the always erudite Mitch Williams opined that Romo's slider "is a get-ahead slider, not a swing-through pitch," which is like describing a Hyundai as "a place to store your extra clothes and stuff, not a mode of transportation." It would be hard to be that wrong about a baseball player's strength. "Mike Trout can't really field, so he has to rely on positioning." "If Buster Posey isn't stealing you 50 bases a year, I'm not sure how valuable he can be to a team."
On some subconscious level, though, you can almost see what Williams was trying to say. Because Romo will hang sliders that don't look like swing-through pitches. He'll back them up occasionally, and they'll look ugly. The NLDS ended on a backup slider to Scott Rolen, for example. And you'll go "pwhhrhrrrrkkfhhh", or whatever sound you make when you know a pitcher got away with one. That makes Romo like every other good pitcher, though. Justin Verlander puts fastballs where he shouldn't. So can Clayton Kershaw. Romo's are just more visible because you're always worried about that one specific pitch doing that exact wrong thing.
But free your mind. Romo has one of the best combinations of command and strikeout stuff in the hyper-strikeout era that we're in today. While you can wonder if his seven spring innings means anything (they haven't been bad, just un-Romo), I'm more comfortable expecting the same reliever we've enjoyed for the last three years. Unless the injury poltergeists get him, he'll be the closer going into next year, too.
Closer next year: yes