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The Giants and Sergio Romo

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Should the Giants re-sign their setup man turned closer turned setup man?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Pablo Sandoval Pablo Sandoval Pablo Sandoval. Red Sox? Could be. Blue Jays? Yes. No. Sources are hot, cold, ambiguous, and convinced that he's going to sign there or here or there. Central League teams showing interest. Source inside the organization with knowledge of the negotiations says Pablo Sandoval could be unless he is becoming unless he just is. Pablo Sandoval rumors Pablo Sandoval rumors Pablo Sandoval rumors.

Except, hold up. What about Sergio Romo?

The lack of Romo-extension chatter on this site has made me sad all year. Not in the comments, but from me. Every time I meant to write about it, something else came up. There was always an injury or rumor or trade, and then Romo started stinking. Big contracts for relievers are something I discourage -- look how horribly the Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt deals worked out -- and that was before Romo looked like something was majorly wrong with him. The slider wasn't biting. The command wasn't there. He allowed more homers from May 11 through July 19 than he allowed in any of the previous three seasons, and he walked more batters than he did in 2011.

Do you remember Romo in 2011? My goodness, what a mutant. Five walks and 70 strikeouts in 48 innings.

The Giants would pay good money for that guy. The one with the inconsistent 2014 season? Not so much. There's a very, very good chance that he leaves.

Before talking about how much money he's going to get, it's probably a good idea to ask where the 2011 Romo went. Considering that he was never as good before or since, it's probably supremely unfair to compare any reliever's season to Romo's 2011. His 2013, then. Let's ask where the unquestioned closer from 2013 went.

Romo didn't get hit harder because he's in the middle of the plate more now. He was biting off huge chunks of the strike zone in '11, too, much less 2013.

It's not because he's not throwing as hard. His average fastball in 2013 was around 88 mph, a tick slower than 2014. He lost velocity between 2011 and 2012, but he's been consistent since then.

It's not because he's being hit harder by left-handers. He most certainly is getting hit harder by lefties, but that's the symptom.

2012
LHB: .161/.250/.241
RHB: .192/.229/.308

2013
LHB: .276/.312/.433
RHB: .182/.229/.282

2014
LHB: .253/.341/.436
RHB: .170/.207/.321

It's not the problem. Before 2012, he ate lefties alive, too. But there's a difference in pitch selection:

2011 (to LHB)
Slider: 25%
Change: 7%

2012 (to LHB)
Slider: 17%
Change: 17%

2013 (to LHB)
Slider: 28%
Change: 14%

2014 (to LHB)
Slider: 18%
Change: 26%

He's throwing a ton of changeups to lefties, and it's a fairly new pitch for him. He throws it for a ball 50 percent of the time (which I'm guessing he should), but it's also the pitch that gets the most swing-throughs and results in the fewest line drives. So I'm not about to blame that pitch.

After staring at charts and graphs for the last two hours, most of which I hardly understand, I've come to some conclusions:

  • I don't think there's much of a difference between 2013 Romo and 2014 Romo, other than a rough stretch of cluster luck. He struck out eight, didn't allow a walk, and gave up one run in seven playoff innings. That seems like the old Romo, even if he made us nervous the whole danged time.

  • Romo is a pitcher who will need to be guarded against left-handed hitters, which makes him more limited than the typical setup man.

  • Romo is still an excellent reliever, and his poor 2014 probably made him affordable.

  • It made him affordable to everyone, though. There will be competition.

  • I want him back because I'm used to him and nostalgic, and I don't even feel bad about it. I think I'd run the Giants the same way they're being run right now. Re-sign everyone! I like these guys!

  • Considering he's probably not a top priority for the Giants right now, at least until they figure out how they're going to use their budget, I don't expect him back. Other teams will act faster than the Giants will, I'll wager.

In any other season, the prospect of losing Romo would have given me hives. All it took was one rough two-month stretch, though, and the idea is reasonable. Boy, we're a fickle bunch.

The elephant in the room is that it's hard to be especially valuable when you throw as few innings as Romo does. A list of players who have had a slightly better season (by WAR) with the Giants than Romo's very best season:

Pedro Feliz, 2007
Marco Scutaro, 2013
Kevin Correia, 2007
Barry Zito, 2009

Again, we're comparing those to Romo's best season, which you were explicitly directed to ignore. He's probably not going to be close to Zito's '09 in the future, at least by this one (imperfect) metric, so the Giants shouldn't exactly give him Jonathan Papelbon money.

But a two-year deal? Something approaching the Santiago Casilla deal, which worked out fantastically? It's probably not the most cost-effective idea, but it certainly appeals to those of us who like the players we're used to. I'm used to Romo. He's one of my favorites.

romo grin

Indeed. Pablo Sandoval rumors will keep coming. But don't forget about Romo. Hopefully the Giants won't, either.