Tyson Ross, who treated his Fantasy owners to a meltdown Tuesday night against the Indians, is just the most recent example of a pitcher whom I thought had kicked his control issues, only to have them reappear.
Now I'm almost certainly guilty of exaggeration and overreaction, as Ross' most recent control issues date all the way back to, um, last week. If you want to include spring training starts, then you could trace it back to March, as he walked nine batters in 19 1/3 Cactus League innings. Though Ross' struggles have been relatively short-lived, it's nonetheless a far cry from the 2.6 BB/9 ratio and 62 percent strikes-thrown rate he issued after entering the Padres' rotation last July.
I might be particularly sensitive to early signs of control issues, given that I've been burned by the likes of Yovani Gallardo, Felix Doubront, Jason Hammel and James McDonald in the past. In each case, I was lured in by the potential for strikeouts and positive BB/9 and strikes-thrown trends, only to see those control indicators take an ugly turn, along with ERA and WHIP.
I've come to think of this group as the Ricky Romero Club, named for the Blue Jays lefty who suddenly and inexplicably lost his command of the strike zone, just as he appeared to have solved his control issues. Ross has apparently applied for membership, but his control will have to spiral out of control awhile longer before he can be approved.
Maybe this is just a two-game blip on the radar for Ross, but with pitchers who have a history of spotty control, it's best to get out ahead of a potential Romero-like collapse. Along with Ross, A.J. Burnett and Tony Cingrani have shown poor control early, throwing fewer than 60 percent of their pitches for strikes, after having shown recent signs of improvement. Burnett's regression is especially disappointing -- and perplexing -- as he had good control in both of his seasons with the Pirates.
Even though they have made only two starts apiece, Ross and Burnett have been bad enough to bench in standard mixed leagues next week. As for Cingrani, he has been so hard to hit that he's managed to be effectively wild, but being a strikeout pitcher doesn't guarantee success. He remains a must-start option, but if he doesn't start throwing more strikes, he could be headed down the Edinson Volquez path. As many owners are painfully aware, that's a bumpy trail that doesn't end in a good place.