The Tribe hopes to snap a three-year Opening Day losing streak on Thursday, but they’ll have a tough assignment on their hands. Blue Jays ace, Ricky Romero, will be on the hill, looking to build upon his breakout 2011 season.
Romero is tough on anyone, but could be particularly troublesome for a young Tribe lineup filled with too many free swingers.
One of Romero’s strengths is his ability to get ahead in the count, and he has developed into an ace due to his ability to put guys away once he’s ahead. In 2011, when Romero worked his way into a two-strike count he recorded a strikeout 44.5% of the time, the 22nd highest putaway rate among 149 qualifying pitchers.
What makes Romero so difficult to hit in two-strike counts is the fact that he has two devastating off-speed pitches which he uses interchangeably.
In two-strike counts, Romero threw 236 changes ups – 73 of which resulted in strikeouts (a putaway rate of 30.9%, 4th highest in the majors). That pitch alone would baffle most hitters, but he also threw his curve 201 times, recording 55 strikeouts (putaway rate of 27.4, also 4th highest in the majors).
The doesn’t bode well for the Tribe, who will put a lineup on the field consisting of four players – Choo, Duncan, Hannahan and Kipnis – who each struck out in over 40% of their plate appearances which reached a two-strike count in 2011.