2018 has been quite the roller coaster ride for Sal Romano. He’s the typical young pitcher who has dramatic highs and lows throughout a season. The 24-year-old started the season allowing 11 earned runs in 15.1 innings (three starts), but rebounded in his next four starts, only giving up seven runs in 27 innings. Then came the May stretch. From May 14 against the San Francisco Giants to June 6 against the Rockies, Romano really struggled, giving up no fewer than four runs every start and making fans wonder if he would be sent down to Triple-A Louisville.

But Romano has once again bounced back. Aside from a start against the Chicago Cubs where he gave up five runs, Romano has pitched well enough to stay in the rotation. He’s only given up three runs in 20 innings, and has struck out 13 while walking seven.

That brings us to last Friday’s start against the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers at GABP. Romano pitched five innings and gave up seven hits but only allowed two runs, including one home run, while striking out five. That’s a 3.60 ERA and one inning shy of a quality start. (Update: Romano pitched yesterday against the White Sox and gave up four runs in five innings, including two home runs. He did strike out six, and did not walk a batter).

Yet in his post game interview after the Brewers game, manager Jim Riggleman made no excuses for Romano, saying he needs to pitch better. From the tone of his voice, it was obvious he was beyond frustrated.

Romano has four pitches: fastball, slider, curveball and change-up. He primarily uses his fastball and curveball; however, he has mixed in the slider for 5.5% of his pitches in 2018. He didn’t use a slider at all in 2017. Because of the slider, Romano has used his change-up slightly less (6.0% in 2018 compared to 9.4% in 2018). Adding a slider to his arsenal seems to have helped him. The slider and curveball are important tools for him when he is able to locate them, especially when he’s had trouble locating the fastball.

It’s easy to compare Romano to his other young teammates, Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle. Both Romano and Castillo are in their sophomore seasons, while Mahle still has rookie status. Although Castillo and Mahle have both shown to be better pitchers than Romano thus far, both still have somewhat similar stats this season, particularly Castillo.

Romano’s 92.2% z-contact% (number of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches throw inside strike zone) is much higher than either Castillo or Mahle. Both of their z-contact% is around 80%, while their contact% is about 75%–Castillo has a lower contact% than Mahle, though. Romano’s is at 83.1%. Batters are making contact at a much higher rate off Romano than off Mahle or Castillo. Romano isn’t giving up more home runs than Castillo or Mahle; in fact, his HR/9 of 1.61 is lower than Castillo’s and just above Mahle’s. His BABIP is about the same as their’s as well. But the difference is Castillo and Mahle are getting more swings and misses from batters than Romano is.

Romano’s SwStr% (percentage of strikes that were swung at and missed) is 7.5%. Even with Castillo’s struggles, his sSwStr% is at 14.0%. Mahle’s is at 10.8%. Batters are just making more contact against Romano, and therefore more likely to get hits when the ball is in play. This also shows in the z-swing% and swing%, as Romano is about three percentage points below Mahle and six percentage points below Castillo in both categories.

Riggleman may be frustrated with Romano, but Romano is showing progress and that’s what you want from players who aren’t 25 years old yet. Obviously Riggleman could know something the fans don’t, such as attitudes of players or mechanics that need to be fixed, and it could be the reason for the frustration. But from where I sit and watch, Romano is having a typical season for a pitcher trying to figure out what went wrong in one start and then fixing it in the next start. Mahle may be better at getting out of jams than Romano and both he and Castillo may just be better pitchers, but that doesn’t mean Romano is not performing adequately thus far this season. He’s pitching well enough to continue in the rotation, and sending him down to Triple-A when Homer Bailey returns would be a mistake.

15 Responses

  1. bouwills

    Since the Reds added Harvey to the rotation on May 11th, their record is 27W & 22L. The Reds record since DeSclafani was activated on June 5th is 17W & 10L. With their offense & bullpen, the reliability of the rotation is crucial. He may be 5-inning Sal. He may be mediocre. but mediocrity is not disaster. Reds are winning some of those games. The Reds will probably be changing 1 sp this month if they find a trading partner for Harvey. Let’s give Romano a few more starts & see where the team is.

    • bouwills

      Sure, demote Romano. Option him to Louisville, use up his last option. Promote Stephenson to Reds rotation, but what if RS doesn’t perform well. Say DeSlcafani comes up lame again & Reds get a good prospect by trading Harvey. Back to rotation bedlam again? Homer Bailey, Cody Reed, & Jackson Stephens? Bad is sometimes better than really, really bad.

  2. Mike Adams

    I’m with you on this. If whatever circumstances force a team to use not-quite-ready pitchers in the bigs, those young guys can still develop.
    Besides costing the big league team wins, it takes a little more time at the big league level. Part of that developmental time would have been at AAA “working on things”.
    In defense of Bill, I think he was being critical of how the Reds handled the DL’d staff and the young guys. I don’t think he is ready to DFA Romano and the all the other young guys.
    As far as comments below, I also am not on the Romano band-wagon. Not that he should be cut or traded, but that indeed he is not a major league pitcher yet. But that is the whole point of the developmental time talked about above. It is painful to go through the ups and downs and the losses but that is what it takes to get a young guy to the point he can pitch in the bigs.

  3. SultanofSwaff

    Depends on the pitcher….or position player. Price was far from consistent in how he applied his tough love. Just ask Stephenson/Reed/Winker compared to, say, Arroyo/Adelman/Romano/Peraza/Hamilton…..you get the idea.

  4. Jeff Reed

    I think Romano was brought up too soon from AAA before he perfected at least three of his four pitches. Of the young pitchers, Castillo and Mahle seem to be a cut above Sal. It’s a rarity today that a pitcher goes to the 7th. inning or beyond, and it usually seems things go wrong for Romano by the 5th. inning or sooner. It appears Garrett is being groomed to succeed Iglesias if he’s traded, but I’d like to see him start some games in the 2nd. half of the season. Garrett’s success as a starter a couple years ago, before injury, is hard to forget.

  5. bouwills

    Both Romano & Castillo have pitched 6 quality starts in 18 starts this season. For the Brewers Chacin has done the same (6QS for 18GS). Guerra has 6QS in 16 GS & Suter has 2QS in 16 GS. For the Cubs Quintana is 7 for 17, & Chatwood is 3 for 15. I’m not suggesting who is the better sp ,but I am suggesting that Romano is doing a job as sp & no more poorly than sp on the division contending teams.

  6. Jbrat22

    Who would have higher asking price, Garrett or Iglesias?

  7. jazzmanbbfan

    Regarding becoming afraid to use his slider, who is calling the pitches? If Romano starts shaking Barnhart off every time he calls for a slider, then Barnhart, or Darwin, needs to come out and educate Romano. If Barnhart stops calling for the slider when that is the right pitch for that batter/count/situation, then someone needs to have a talk with Tucker.

  8. Bill

    INDY your right all the talk about throwing 98 – 103, what needs to be learned is control. Greg Maddox they say threw 92 – 93 but had great control. I wonder if pitchers get 2 strikes on a batter and start to nibble until the count is 3 – 2 then try to get a fast ball by the hitter and doesn’t make it. No wonder the pitch count and ERA are high.

  9. roger garrett

    I never expected much out of Sal or any of these young guys which includes Bob or Amir or Reed or Lorenzen.Going 5 innings and keeping us in the game is all that matters right now because all are a work in process and will remain that way until the end of this year.I personally believe that the days of starters going 6 or 7 on a consistent basis is well long gone.The pitch count gets them or a pinch hitter has to be used because of being behind even if they are throwing good in the late innings.We have to let every thing play out and lets see what happens.Sal and all the rest know what they have to do to take the next step.Sal and Castillo need another pitch,Bob needs to cut down on the walks,Mahle needs to keep it in the park as does Castillo and the list goes on.Lets give them a chance to figure it out.Unless you have the money to buy it then you better develop it.

  10. Jack

    Last day for all star voting and Scooter has fallen to 3rd behind Albies and Baez. VOTE

  11. Indy Red Man

    BobSteve 6 ip, 0 runs, 1 walk, 12 Ks….but lets leave him at AAA all year until he ends up in another organization while the Reds have multiple young pitchers struggling with mid 5 eras.

    OF Clint Frazier 3-4 with 2 HRs tonite at AAA. I’d give the Yankees whatever they want for him. I guess the Yankees are probably grooming him to replace Gardner, but the Reds should try to put something together. They’re in the discussion for JA Happ for Harvey is better (and much younger) if he’s right!

  12. bouwills

    Maybe, just maybe it’s coming together for the Reds pitching. Best outing of the year for R. Stephenson with 6 innings of 2 hit, 1 walk, shutout baseball while recording a full dozen K(s). He may yet be ready for a callup when Harvey is dealt.

    • Indy Red Man

      BobSteve needs Romano’s spot! Romano was always mediocre in the minors? A 4.30 era and .270 batting average allowed. This kid I’ve been looking at for the Phillies….Enyel De Los Santos. 22 yrs old and a 1.81 era at AAA. A .212 batting average allowed. I think thats where I would focus my attention for Iggy.

      Bottom line…if Romano can’t beat minor league hitters then how is he going to succeed w/the Reds?

  13. Indy Red Man

    Traded Kris Bryant, Kiki Hernandez, and Dallas Keuchel for Trea Turner in fantasy baseball. Turner with 2 HRs, 3 runs, 6 rbis tonite! I’m a genius:)