Stefen Romero, miscast and overmatched

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Stefen Romero routinely gets starts against left-handed pitching despite being terrible at hitting them for each of the past two seasons.

I don't think the Mariners intended to keep Stefen Romero around for this long if he was struggling. Romero entered the year as a part-time platoon bat who could start against LHP, a solution to the clear imbalance on the roster. Corey Hart would DH, Romero would play right field, and the Mariners would get by against lefties with some power from the right side. They've managed to get by just fine against lefty starters (13-8), but it hasn't exactly been the offense that's carried them. It definitely hasn't been Stefen Romero, who has hit lefties far worse than right-handed pitching during the 2014 season.

It really shouldn't come as that much of a surprise. Romero was far better against RHP in 2013, and while he crushed lefties in 2012, he also crushed righties.

OPS vs. RHP OPS vs. LHP
2014 (MLB) 0.679 0.505
2013 (AAA) 0.801 0.688
2012 (A+/AA) 0.964 1.060

*record scratch*

It seems many of us, including Lloyd McClendon, have been guilty of simply assuming Stefen Romero carries a classic power hitter profile, the kind that mashes lefties but can't do much against righties. It seems, in a semi-limited sample, that the opposite has been true for Romero against quality pitching. It's lefties that have completely dominated Romero through the past two years, and while it's taken some time for the sample to grow big enough to catch on, after 544 PA through the last two seasons, some conclusions can be made. Maybe.

Romero has made the Mariners even worse against left-handed pitching. He's not adding value in any other ways, either. His defense, while better than expected, has been average at best. He's hardly a burner on the basepaths. The Mariners have a right-handed righty-masher who can't mash righties and plays the game's second most easy position to fill.

At this point, it's not only time to ask why he continues to start versus lefties, but whether or not he should even be on the roster. Even with his reverse splits, he's hardly hitting right-handed pitching, and he should remain well behind Ackley, Jones, and Saunders on those days. If anything, perhaps he should be starting as the DH against RHP, though that's hardly a good solution, even with Corey Hart injured.

Even if all of these reverse splits are a small sample facade, none of it matters if he isn't hitting. Theoretically, he'd be back in AAA weeks ago, but the Mariners clearly don't have anybody to replace him with. Maybe they've come to the same conclusions I have, and that's where Xavier Nady comes in, signed yesterday to a minor league deal. Nady earned his freedom from the Padres organization earlier this month, where he managed to hit .135/.238/.405. But his splits versus lefties? .200/.368/.667 (SSS!) Nady spent all of 2013 in AAA, where he posted a .879 OPS against lefties. But Nady is not entirely dissimilar from Romero, carrying even platoon splits through his career with a reverse split in 2012 and a traditional one in 2011.

Nobody really knows what kind of hitter Xavier Nady is anymore, other than not a very good one. Maybe he hits lefties better at this stage in his career, and maybe he doesn't. But he's not Stefen Romero, and maybe that conclusion is good enough. There's a small chance that Nady is here to replace Stefen Romero, but wouldn't it be nice if Cole Gillespie could take Romero's role instead? Unfortunately, Gillespie has murky reverse splits of his own, scarily similar to Romero's path. Take a look at Gillespie's last two years in the minors, compared to Romero.

2013 is identical. Gillespie hasn't hit left-handed pitching at all through his MLB career, though that's hardly an adequate sample, full of scattered starts and pinch hitting appearances through 213 plate appearances across multiple years.

Stefen Romero Cole Gillespie
OPS vs. RHP OPS vs. LHP OPS vs. RHP OPS vs. LHP
2013 0.801 0.688 0.8 0.684
2012 0.964 1.06 0.847 1.015

There's no easy fix here, and I don't envy Z or McClendon. There aren't enough hitters in the organization to fix this with any clarity. It would be great to do the research, write the article, and suggest a move that should be made to fix a clear problem, but it can't be done. The Mariners need a different bat to play against left-handed pitching that probably isn't in the organization. Neither Xavier Nady or Cole Gillespie show signs of being the true lefty-masher the team needs. Logan Morrison isn't going to fix it, though he will probably be an upgrade on Romero at this point. Jesus Montero has faded after a hot start, and he's striking out at a 27.6% rate against lefties. I'm unconvinced he's a legitimate answer, though he may sadly be the best one.

The Mariners have started to look outside the organization with Nady, and that's a start. We suggested Brock Peterson, proven lefty-killer in the offseason plan, and he's promptly struggling with extreme reverse splits in the Nationals organization. Building a baseball team is really, really hard. The Mariners have more information available than I do. I just hope whatever decision they make results in more production than what they're getting from Romero against lefties, because he's miscast in his current role.

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