Blue Jays pitcher Ricky Romero blows a gum balloon during practice at their spring training facility in Dunedin

What’s going on with Ricky Romero and his 5.75 ERA?


Ricky Romero showed a steady progression in his first three seasons, as his ERA went from 4.30 to 3.73 to 2.92 with similar improvements in walk rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

He emerged as a top-of-the-rotation starter for the Blue Jays last season, making his first All-Star team at age 26 and throwing 225 innings with a 2.92 ERA. And now he can’t get anyone out.

Romero failed to make it out of the second inning last night against the A’s, walking six batters and coughing up eight runs as his ERA ballooned to 5.75. It was the fourth time in his last six starts that Romero has allowed six-plus runs and in his last dozen starts he’s allowed 59 runs in 64 innings with nearly as many walks (38) as strikeouts (43).

His strikeouts are down and his walks are up, although Romero’s average fastball velocity of 91.1 miles per hour is pretty close to his career mark of 91.5 mph. Despite that similar velocity batters have teed off on his fastball, with Fan Graphs showing the pitch being worth 12.5 runs below average compared to 15.5 runs above average during the previous two seasons. And that negative mark for this year doesn’t even include last night’s clobbering.

I’m not smart enough to explain why, but Romero’s fastball is getting knocked around this year after previously being an excellent pitch and suddenly the young left-hander the Blue Jays thought would be atop their rotation for years to come thanks to a $30 million contract extension is a complete mess.

What to watch for on the final day of the regular season

Cole Hamels
AP Photo/LM Otero

Here we are, the final day of the regular season. And every game with playoff implications will start at the same time: 3:05 p.m. ET. What to watch …

American League Wild Card


This is where the most intrigue lies heading into the day. We have the Yankees currently in position for hosting duties, but they’re only one game up on Houston. And then Houston is only one game up on Anaheim. Also at play here is that the Astros are just one game back of the Rangers in the American League West standings. If the Yankees, Astros, and Rangers all win on Sunday the current postseason map stays the same — the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday will be at Yankee Stadium with the Astros visiting. And the Angels would obviously be out. But if the Angels win and the Astros lose, we’ll have a play-in game Monday. And if the Yankees lose, the location of the Wild Card Game on Tuesday could change.

American League West


As we touched on above, the Astros are still in a position to force a tiebreaker for the division if the Angels beat the Rangers again in Arlington. It’ll be Garrett Richards against Cole Hamels in that one. Houston is throwing Lance McCullers vs. Robbie Ray in Arizona.

American League Best Record


If the AL Central-champion Royals (94-67) beat the Twins on Saturday behind deadline acquisition Johnny Cueto, they’ll get the Wild Card Game winner in the ALDS and clinch homefield advantage throughout the postseason. But if they lose, the Blue Jays (93-68) could move into that top seed because they won their season series against Kansas City 4-3. Mark Buehrle is pitching for Toronto in what is supposed to be his final major league game.

National League Wild Card


Pittsburgh losing and Chicago winning on Saturday kept Wild Card Game hosting duties alive for Wrigley Field. If the Pirates fall again to the Reds and the Cubs win at Miller Park, the game Wild Card Game Wednesday will be in Chicago because the Cubs have the season-series edge (11-8) over the Bucs. Pittsburgh can wrap up clinching duties with a victory behind J.A. Happ.

Stay tuned. We’ll be covering all angles as the 2015 regular season comes to a close.

Video: Joey Votto tips his cap to A.J. Burnett

A.J. Burnett
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

There was a pretty cool moment in Saturday’s game between the Reds and Pirates.

A.J. Burnett has announced that this will be his final season, so his start Saturday at PNC Park might have been the last time he ever pitches off a major league mound. (Pittsburgh has to make it through the Wild Card Game to get the 38-year-old right-hander another turn).

Aware of all this, Joey Votto made eye contact with Burnett just before his at-bat in the top of the first inning and gave a tip of the cap. Er, batting helmet …