Don’t look now, but San Francisco reliever Sergio Romo is putting together one of those relief-specialist seasons that just blow one’s mind. Let’s put it this way: Romo’s going to have one hellacious Strat-o-Matic card this year.
As of this morning, Romo is sporting a 1.78 ERA, but that isn’t his best stat. Not by a long shot. In 35.1 innings, Romo has allowed 19 hits. And four walks. And he has 51 strikeouts.
Yes, you read that right.
To be sure, Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy spots Romo very carefully and precisely. The right-hander is primarily an eighth-inning set-up man (32 of his 49 appearances have come in inning No. 8), and very often for just a portion of the inning at that, as Bochy is frequently satisfied with Romo just getting one or two outs (and Bochy enjoys the bullpen depth to afford that luxury).
Bochy strongly targets Romo to face right-handed batters, to whom he is essentially unhittable. LHBs stand a fighting chance against Romo, putting up a line of .257/.278/.429. But RHBs are jaw-droppingly helpless against Romo’s pinpoint accuracy of his wicked-breaking slurve, batting an hilarious .115/.144/.172 against him in 91 plate appearances, walking just three times while striking out 45.
The 28-year-old native Californian Romo isn’t a big guy, at 5’10″, 185. Bochy and Giants’ pitching coach Dave Righetti, alert to Romo’s stamina and his occasional lapses in poise, keep him on a short leash. He wouldn’t be able to post these kinds of numbers if used in a broader role. He’s a bundle of nervous twitches on the mound, and rather a hyper personality generally (it was Romo’s growth of a shaggy and genuinely black beard during last season that inspired Brian Wilson to perform his own attention-getting sartorial maneuver) that have cast doubt among pundits as to whether being a closer is in Romo’s future.
Regardless of what becomes of him, in his strictly-defined set-up role in 2011, Romo is lights-out. If you haven’t yet gotten a look at this guy, check him out. He is conducting a clinic right now.