Romero picked up some early Rookie of the Year buzz thanks to impressive months of June and July. Sadly he tired and struggled as the season wore on, posting much uglier numbers than I realized. 1.52 WHIP, 4 walks per 9 innings. While some pencil Ricky Roma in as the Opening Day starter, others (myself included) aren't so sure.
Brett Cecil rushed his way to the majors on the back of his excellent minor league lines. While in the big show he had some good starts and some very bad ones. He ended up with similar numbers to Romero in some respects; slightly better K/BB though fewer Ks. A worse WHIP with too many home runs surrendered. But how to they stack up? Who will be the better pitcher in 2010? 2011? The not-too-distant future in which the machines are self-aware but peaceful? Why don't we take a look see at what the bring to the table, pitchwise? I grabbed the data for three strong starts each. First: spin-deflection also known as break. Click to enlarge, full explanation below.
A couple things stand out to me: Ricky Romero's change up IS that good. It's usually the first thing people discuss when they break RR down and with good reason. Cecil's slider seems to clump up nicely, a good sign in terms of command me thinks. We can see another large cluster of black around -8 inches, representing Cecil's two seam fastball. He throws it often and with some success. Perhaps the two-seamer could emerge as the pitch to bolster his slightly lackluster ground ball numbers. In this admittedly small sample (three starts), Cecil induced nearly 40% of his grounders with the two seamer.
Romero gets a fuck ton of ground balls in his own way, mostly by pounding the zone with his fastball. One can only assume Romero's ability to change speeds forces a lot of roll overs and ground outs.
The erratic nature of both curves suggests these guys shouldn't really throw curveballs. Romero relies on his fastball and change up with a couple curves, sliders, and mixed-grip fastballs tossed in to keep hitters honest. Cecil is four seamer, two seamer and slider; with a pretty bad curve and occasional change up for good measure. How about a closer look?
Ahh, the spin versus velocity graph reveals all. Lots of fastballs and changeups from Romero, more variety from Cecil. Cecil's inability to throw his curveball consistently really shows here also. The angle & direction on which the ball spins sure goes a long way to tell us how and where it will break. Cecil's is all over the place, so is his curveball.
So what does this all mean? By my eye they seem to have pretty similar stuff. Each man reaches the mid-nineties with his fastball and offsets it with a good secondary pitch. Both guys need to throw more strikes and keep the ball in the park better. As for the future, well, deep exhale.
Not to go all intangibles on you here, but Ricky Romero scares me. One too many times I saw him staring into the dugout like a frightened rabbit looking for The Manager to come and rescue him. And that's not good. Brett Cecil has the reputation of a bulldog, a former closer with the swagger you like to see and desire to achieve. When I consider that he's two years younger than Romero and flew through the minors, I think he's only going to get better.
Romero struggled throughout his minor league career with make-up issues and the inability to trust his stuff. I don't know if that will haunt him forever, but when I watch him on the mound it informs my opinion of him. His shoulders slump forward and that's it for Ricky. Cecil showed the same vulnerability in Boston last year, a brutal start he basically quit on. But from what I see (and truthful, what I want to see) he wants to get better and perform. That's all well and good for a marginally talented player, but Cecil has the body and arsenal of a guy made to do this.
Brett Cecil serves as a good example of why teams aggressively promote some players while holding others back. In the lower minors he could get guys out simply by locating his fastball or throwing strikes with his slider. He still needs to learn to pitch, something Ricky Romero spent the extra seasons in the minors doing.
So yeah, I'm bullish on Cecil. I think he'll be a rotation mainstay for years to come, not just because I gave him a cool nickname. Which isn't to say I'm down on Romero or think poorly of him. When all is said and done, I feel Cecil will be the better player, it might even happen this season. No amount of time in the bullpen or working with The Manager can teach Romero what he already knows. Maybe he will take a big step this season. Develop his curveball further and become the Johan Santana clone he might just be. Which, I don't need to tell you, would be awesome.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia, Pitch F/X data courtesy of Brooks Baseball