Twins Daily Roundtable: Romero's Innings
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsSeth Stohs
In my opinion, along with Jose Berrios, Fernando Romero should be a cornerstone of the Minnesota starting rotation for years to come. So while the concept of limiting innings can be disputed (and has been), my biggest concern is doing what is best for Romero and his future. Therefore, I would be in support of an innings limit for the hard-throwing right-hander.
In 2016, his first season back from Tommy John, he threw 90 1/3 innings between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. You can likely add another 20 to 25 innings that he threw in extended spring training before joining the Kernels in mid-May. He spent the 2017 season in Double-A Chattanooga where he threw 125 innings. Late in the season, he was limited to five innings per start. He came up with a 'dead arm' and was skipped in the final start of the season.
If you subscribe to the theory that a 20% increase in workload is where he should be limited, that would be 150 innings. Romero is currently at 62 1/3 innings combined between the Red Wings and Twins. So, maybe a creative DL stint around the All-Star break might be wise. Maybe limiting him to five innings late in the season or piggybacking him with another starter might make sense.
Romero's long-term health should be the team's primary concern, so at some point a limit almost has to come into play. I think somewhere in the 150-175 range would be reasonable after he logged 125 in 2017.
One strategy that deserves consideration is giving Romero some time off in the middle of the summer (or maybe a few weeks in the bullpen), thus enabling him to go deeper into the season. But that really only becomes a factor if the team gets on a run pretty quickly here and offers signs that September games will actually matter.
Yes, he should be. He should not go over 155 innings and shouldn’t make a start once he gets to 150 innings. Romero is at 62 innings so far this year (21 in AAA, 41 in MLB) which leaves him a maximum of 93 innings. Throughout his career, he’s averaged about 5.1 IP per start, so that gets him about 17 starts. That means he would be shut down mid September.
The tougher question is, short of just shelving him late in the season, can the Twins figure out a way to have him available in case those September (or October?) games mean something?
Maybe someone else on the roundtable will have a better idea, but to me the answer is “No.” Screwing around with his work, whether that means skipping starts, moving him to the bullpen, or demoting him to AAA for shorter starts, seems risky considering the long-term upside he represents. Plus, given the Twin are on the outskirts of the division race right now, one could argue these games are far more likely to be valuable than those in September.
So stay the course with Romero. It’s certainly paid off so far.
Yes, I do think the Twins should be concerned about Romero's workload, but I don't think he needs an overly restrictive innings limit. I don't think I'd want him throwing more than 180 innings, which is a lot these days anyway. Romero logged 125 innings last season, but really sputtered to the finish line.
I think it'd be a good idea to skip either Romero's last start heading into the All-Star break or first start after the break. I also think the team should use extreme caution if even the smallest issue should come up. With a DL stint being only 10 days now, you can slide him on there and basically use that to skip a start. I'm sure they'll find ways to get creative if they feel he needs some extra rest.
Other than that, let him roll. Maybe he gets hurt, maybe he doesn't, but as long as they're not asking him to throw 120+ pitches or ignoring signs of fatigue, such as a drop in velocity, I think they're doing what's best for him.
When considering this question, my first thought was to compare Romero to Berrios because those have been the two “big name” pitching prospects to debut over the last couple of years. The more I thought about it, the more I realized this might be a fool’s errand.
These are two different pitchers with two different body types and two different injury histories. Both players are listed at 6-feet tall but Romero has at least 30 pounds more on his frame. Romero has also undergone Tommy John surgery and that plays into the equation as well.
Romero’s innings will most certainly be limited at some point this season. However, the new front office has been utilizing tracking data to analyze pitchers for fatigue. I think it will become clear in the second half as to what the front office plans to do. Minnesota isn’t out of the race but Cleveland could pull away.
Minnesota needs to be smart with Romero because he can’t be on pace for over 250 innings like Max Scherzer.
It's always important for an organization to be cognizant of a pitcher's workload. So, simply put, the answer is wrong if you think he shouldn't be on some sort of limit. But does it have to revolve around innings?
Romero threw 90.1 innings in 2016. He increased that total to 125 in 2017. That might be a little misleading, though, because in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Romero started the 2016 season with seven weeks in extended spring training. Upon closer look, he threw 1245 pitches in those 90.1 innings in 2016 and threw 1991 pitches in those 125 innings in 2017. His innings increased 38%, but his pitches increased almost 60%. So despite not knowing what his actual workloads were, the Twins let Romero throw a significantly higher number of pitches in 2017. If you wanted him to make 32 starts and not increase the number of pitches he'd throw, he'd still be able to throw over 60 pitches a game.
Let's look at how that relates to another young pitcher in the organization, Jose Berrios. Berrios went from 140 inning in 2014 to 166.1 innings to 169.2 innings to 185.1 innings in 2017. Pitch-wise he went from 1450 to 2509 to 2735 to 2942.
For both players, as they've increased in level (and facing better hitters), their pitches per inning has increased, but seem to stabilize just shy of 16 pitches per inning.
Looking at the jump Berrios took in pitches (not innings) from 2015 to 2017, it was an increase of 1285 pitches. I used the increase of two years because it was basically when he went from being limited to being full-go.
If you use that same jump for Romero and divide that number of pitches (1245+1285) by the average pitches per inning (15.74), that puts Romero at about 161 innings before you'd start to get cautious. Of course, that doesn't count the aforementioned work he did in extended spring training. I'd approximate that they could add another 10-15 innings before he hits a hard limit of around 175 innings.
At this point in time - around a third of the season - Romero has thrown only 57.1 innings, which has him on a pace to get around 170 innings without skipping any starts. But his pitch total (994) is over 100 pitches over the normal usage pace. In a season where Romero's health is likely to be more important that a few games in September, I'd err on the side of caution if his pitch total continues to trend higher. Maybe we throw innings out completely and don't let him start any more games after he's thrown his 2500th pitch of the year. That's simple enough, right?
With regard to Romero and limiting innings this season, I think a good deal of what the Twins should do will be dictated to them by how the rest of the summer plays out. Right now they're a talented team that's severely underperforming. While Cleveland hasn't run away and hid, they are capable of doing that at any point. Should things stay close, the Twins will need to get creative and could skip a few turns for Romero to stretch him out further.
If they fall out of it however, I'd have no problem with shutting him down for September. He threw 125 innings a season ago, and 20% seems to be a healthy increase for this year. If he can get up around 150 innings and is still feeling good, then maybe it becomes more of a touch and feel type of thing. At this point, I don't think much of a rigid plan should be put in place.
Easy. You add 30 to Fernando Romero’s 125 innings pitched in 2017 and you put a limit of 155 innings this year. That keeps you in compliance with “the Verducci Effect,” which argues that pitchers 25 and under face increased risk of elbow breakdown a year after they increase their workload by 30 or more innings above the previous year.
So, if we don’t want Romero breaking down in 2019, we don’t let him pitch more than 155 innings in 2018. The math is easy. But PLEASE tell me that the past 20 years have brought more science to the issue than can be applied using Tom Verducci’s second grade math.
Last I knew, most teams were using biomechanics compression sleeves to measure pitching arm fatigue on an individual basis. Maybe there’s something newer. Certainly, there is some way to evaluate when a pitcher is entering risky territory that applies a more scientific approach than adding 125 and 30.
So, my answer is, yes, I would limit Romero’s workload this year. But without knowing what the Twins are using to measure his specific level of arm/elbow fatigue, I have no way of knowing where to place that limit.
Yes, I believe Fernando Romero should be on an innings (well, workload) limit as he has never pitched more than the 125 innings he did last season. The main thing the Twins need out of Romero is his long-term health after this season.
However, I don’t think the Twins should take the same approach that the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg a few years back where they rode him all season then shut him down once he hit 160 IP even though they were in the playoff race.
However, as things stand, the Twins might not have to do a lot to limit Romero’s innings. He has only thrown 62 1/3 innings so far this year between AAA and MLB. Say the Twins choose to keep him around 160 total innings, this gives Romero roughly 100 innings to work with.
So far Romero is averaging just over 5 innings per start. If he keeps that pace it will give him another 17-20 starts with which to work with 100 games left in the season. So in reality, all the Twins might have to do is skip a couple of starts here or there for the rest of the season and he should keep his innings low enough for a potential Twins postseason run.
While I was happily wrong in my preseason forecast on how Fernando Romero might be used when predicting players to make their MLB debut this season, the concerns brought up about how many innings he might be able to pitch are still valid.
Whether you believe innings limits are a thing or not, Romero just hasn’t pitched much as a professional. His 365 and change career innings pales in comparison to someone like Jose Berrios, who pitched nearly 600 innings in the minors alone, along with a career high of 185. Romero got up to 125 before he was shut down last season.
Add in that Berrios is only half of a year older than Romero, and all signs point to Romero being cut off at some point in 2018. I do think he should be on an innings limit due to those reasons and his health history, but where that number should fall I’ll only take a stab at:
I’ll predict that if Romero remains healthy and productive going forward, as soon as he hits around that 125 number from last year, he’s going to get shifted into the bullpen and remain there the rest of the season. Let’s call it a compromise on that preseason prediction.
If you missed any of the previous roundtable discussions, here are the links:
Romero’s Rotation Spot
Top Prospect Timelines
Minnesota’s All-Star Selection