Oakland Adds Bullpen Depth With Petit and Romo

The A’s continued to stockpile relievers over the weekend, signing free agents Yusmeiro Petit and Sergio Romo to one-year contracts, both for a little over $2 million for the 2021 season.

Petit is a familiar face in Oakland and will likely play a similar role as he has since 2018: pitching mostly mid-leverage innings, mainly in the sixth through eighth innings. He was rarely used for longer than an inning in 2020; the odd shape of the season and the more expansive roster made this less desirable and less necessary. Still, in the past, he’s been one of the closest players to the old long reliever archetype that has largely faded out of baseball.

Most Two-Inning Relief Appearances, Active Pitchers

Among active pitchers, only Stammen has made more two-inning relief appearances. Compared to history, though, 106 appearances only gets Petit into a tie for 323rd all-time, behind the relief stars primarily from the 1960s, 70s and 80s who dominated this usage.

Most Two-Inning Relief Appearances
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

One of Petit’s relief stints will be long remembered by baseball fans: his six-inning appearance in Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS while a member of the Giants. That was the 18-inning marathon against the Nationals that wasn’t settled until a Brandon Belt homer in the final frame. Petit allowed just a single hit in those six innings, and that appearance remains the all-time leader for relief WPA in a postseason game.

Most Valuable Relief Appearances, Postseason
Player Date Series Gm# WPA
Yusmeiro Petit 10/4/2014 NLDS 2 .775
Blix Donnelly 10/5/1944 WS 2 .644
Dolf Luque 10/7/1933 WS 5 .642
Roger McDowell 10/15/1986 NLCS 6 .635
Orlando Hernandez 10/7/2005 ALDS 3 .616
Dick Donovan 10/6/1959 WS 5 .601
Madison Bumgarner 10/29/2014 WS 7 .600
Walter Johnson 10/10/1924 WS 7 .589
John Rocker 10/8/1999 NLDS 3 .586
Sparky Lyle 10/8/1977 ALCS 4 .570
Joe Page 10/7/1949 WS 3 .562
Darren O’Day 10/11/2012 ALDS 4 .558
Hank Borowy 10/8/1945 WS 6 .541
Derek Lowe 10/6/2003 ALDS 5 .532
Marv Grissom 9/29/1954 WS 1 .531
Tug McGraw 10/9/1973 NLCS 4 .524
Diego Castillo 10/11/2020 ALCS 1 .511
Ron Taylor 10/11/1964 WS 4 .511
Roy Face 10/9/1960 WS 4 .510
Pete Alexander 10/10/1926 WS 7 .510
Rosy Ryan 10/10/1923 WS 1 .499
Braden Looper 10/22/2003 WS 4 .492
Rich Gossage 10/8/1981 ALDS 2 .477
Hugh McQuillan 10/10/1924 WS 7 .475
Mariano Rivera 10/4/1995 ALDS 2 .471
Tim Wakefield 10/18/2004 ALCS 5 .468
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Even including all pitchers instead of just relievers leaves Petit’s game at 15th all-time!

As a soft-tosser, Petit tends to be on the homer-prone side when his usually-excellent command falters, and if Jake Diekman struggles as the closer, he is unlikely to be high on the priority list in save opportunities. Still, he ought to continue to be fairly dependable in his mid-inning role. I would expect that he’ll make fewer early-inning appearances in the past if the team starts the season with Rule 5 pick Dany Jiménez on the roster.

ZiPS Projection – Yusmeiro Petit
2021 4 3 2 3.72 62 0 65.3 60 27 10 12 59 114 0.7

Romo has a lot of Bay Area experience as a member of the Giants in all three of their recent World Series championship seasons. He’s only been used as a closer a few times in his 13 seasons, but he’s been very effective for a non-flamethrowing reliever and still holds a career ERA under three. He’s pretty much the same pitcher he was a decade ago, with the caveat that everything’s just missing five mph or so: slow fastball, slower sinker, slider, and the occasional change. Romo will turn 38 next month, but he can probably do this indefinitely; I’m not convinced that Doug Jones at 63 years old would be that much worse a pitcher than he was 25 years ago.

Like Petit, Romo can occasionally be homer-prone — in his case usually when a “fastball” dangles over the heart of the plate. Using Gameday’s definition of the “heart” of the strike zone, batters slugged .581 against fastballs and sinkers over the heart of the zone. Against Romo, they’ve slugged .800. WhateverIt’sNamedThisYear Coliseum is a good home to help contain those mistakes, just as San Francisco was for him earlier in his career. And don’t let the velocity fool you: Romo can still punch out batters to finish at-bats.

Slider Strikeouts by Relievers, 2018-2020
Pitcher Strikeouts
Amir Garrett 135
Brad Hand 135
Will Smith 132
Edwin Diaz 126
Luke Jackson 117
Diego Castillo 113
Adam Ottavino 108
José Leclerc 106
Sergio Romo 97
Aroldis Chapman 97
Reyes Moronta 91
Jake Diekman 91
Luis Cessa 88
Paul Fry 82
Felix Peña 81
SOURCE: Statcast

Among relief pitchers, Romo ranks ninth in slider strikeouts over the last three seasons. From 2008 to ’16, his prime with the Giants, he ranked third, behind only Carlos Marmol and Luke Gregerson.

ZiPS Projection – Sergio Romo
2021 3 2 28 4.13 50 0 44.3 42 20 7 14 45 103 0.2

With the addition of a soft-tossing triptych (the A’s also picked up Adam Kolarek from the Dodgers last week), ZiPS projects Oakland with the 15th-best bullpen in baseball, smack-dab in the middle. The end of the bullpen ranks well — ZiPS pegs the relievers beyond the top four as the ninth-best in baseball — but the A’s are still missing the sizzle. It might not matter in the end, as there are no juggernaut teams in the AL West, and Oakland has a history of finding relief help out of unlikely sources.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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