Jordan Romano is still a top-tier closer and don't you forget it
Recently, there have been disgruntled cries of panic from some corners of the Toronto Blue Jays fanbase that think Jordan Romano doesn't have what it takes to be the closer. Amidst these rumblings, the kid from Markham continues to prove otherwise with his on-field results.
Of all the problems this current Blue Jays team is dealing with, Romano should be the least of the concerns.
Romano's most recent appearance should be enough to sway anyone left in the camp who inconceivably thinks he is anything less than a top-tier ninth-inning man.
In case you missed it, Romano entered Wednesday's game in the ninth to hold a scoreless tie with the Yankees. He looked brilliant in his two innings of work, needing only 23 pitches to put a couple of zeroes on the scoreboard. He didn't allow a hit and recorded a pair of strikeouts with his impressive fastball. He held the line so the team could go home with the win, thanks to Danny Jansen's 10th-inning walk-off blast.
On the season, the intense righty has 10 saves, the third most in baseball. While his 3.00 ERA is the highest among the top six saves leaders, his 2.08 expected ERA indicates that perhaps he has been deserving of better results. Since his early season meltdown against the Angels, he has an ERA of ... you guessed it, 2.08.
Maybe Romano brought this undue criticism on himself by setting such wildly unrealistic expectations when he passed Blue Jays legend Tom Henke last year on his way to a team-record 31 consecutive saves that spanned the end of 2021 and the beginning of the 2022 season. If you pass "The Terminator" on any list, you're doing something right.
It may be tough to hear, but as much as fans want to win every game and think players should be perfect, it's rare for a closer to be flawless for such extended stretches. The top relievers in the game blow saves. It's going to happen. That's just baseball.
The best closers keep rough outings to a minimum, providing consistency at the backend of the bullpen. Romano has been about as consistent as they come. Since 2021, the former Rule 5 pick ranks fifth with 69 saves while sporting a 2.23 ERA. He's keeping good company with the likes of Kenley Jansen, Emmanuel Clase, Josh Hader and Liam Hendriks.
Over that time, he has only nine blown saves. Of the other four closers on the list, only Hader has fewer blown saves than Romano, and only Clase has a lower ERA. Romano also leads the group with eight holds and 15 wins, while his seven losses tie him for the lowest total.
Is Jordan Romano worse than last season?
Maybe Romano has had some outings where he hasn't looked as sharp as fans would have liked. Perhaps some observers are still holding onto what happened at the end of last year's Wild Card series, which was hardly the closer's fault.
Whatever the perceived problems are, compared to his peers and his own previous performance, Romano is doing just fine this season.
Here's the list of this year's MLB saves leaders, including their blown saves.
S / BS
15 / 4
11 / 3
11 / 2
11 / 1
10 / 0
10 / 2
10 / 0
He may not have the dominating strikeout rate of Alexis Diaz (49.2%) or Felix Bautista (44.7%), but his 30.7% rate is nothing to sneeze at (the MLB average for relievers is 23.8%). His 3.00 BB/9 is the second lowest in this group, behind Clase's 2.01 mark. The "Markham Madman" gets the job done with an elite 83.4 mph average exit velocity, by far the best among the saves leaders and the 10th-best mark among all qualified relievers.
For those who think he's not as good as last year, you may want to sit down for this next part.
His underlying numbers and metrics show that he's actually pitching better than last year. He has improved his swing and miss on both his fastball (39.6% up from 26.8%) and slider (37.9% up from 33.7%).
Here are some other 2023 numbers compared to last year's marks.
If you're still not convinced of where he stands, you can see his Baseball Savant page is lit up in a sea of red, as he sits in or near the top percentiles for most Statcast categories.
While there are debates to be had about issues with the bullpen, the closer role isn't one of them. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone better out in that left field bullpen for the Jays to employ in high-pressure ninth-inning situations.
It's time to stop the hand-wringing and admit that Jordan Romano is a top-tier, if not elite, Major League Baseball closer.