What Went Wrong: Austin Romine

Steinbrenner, Torre, and Martin on Hall of Fame's Expansion Era ballot
Thoughts at the open of free agency

The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with a young player who failed to take advantage of a good opportunity.


After Russell Martin signed with the Pirates and the Yankees declined to bring in another catcher, it was obvious Austin Romine would get a chance to play at some point this past season. He was slated to open the year with Triple-A Scranton while Frankie Cervelli and Chris Stewart held down the fort at the big league level, but the opportunity was inevitable. Either someone would get hurt or play their way off the roster.

Sure enough, the opportunity came towards the end of April. Cervelli took a foul tip off his right hand and was expected to miss several weeks with a fracture, but a setback and a 50-game suspension eventually ended his season. For all intents and purposes, Romine was the backup catcher to Stewart this season. The opportunity came and it came early.

The first ten weeks in the show were a total disaster for Romine. He hit .132/.145/.176 with 17 strikeouts and zero walks (!) in 71 plate appearances from late-April through mid-July, a span of 23 starts and 32 games played. I get that playing sporadically — it was obvious Joe Girardi had an affinity for Stewart and would play him whenever possible — is tough to do, especially as a kid when you’re used to playing everyday, but man were the first weeks ugly for Romine. He looked completely overwhelmed.

Romine spent several weeks working with hitting coaching Kevin Long while also getting input from his father Kevin, a former big league outfielder with the Red Sox. His performance started to turn around in mid-July, right before the All-Star break. Romine played in three of four games before the break and went 3-for-8 with a double and his first walk of the season, which was something to feel good about. I think that “something to feel good about” part was rather important. There’s no doubt the kid needed a confidence-booster.

The playing time remained sporadic immediately after the break but Romine kept hitting, enough that Girardi started playing him a little bit more. He started ten of the first 25 games after the break and went 13-for-32 (.406) with five walks, four doubles, and his first big league homer, a monster solo shot to dead center field at spacious Petco Park. Three weeks later, he had his best at-bat of the season, working a nine-pitch bases-loaded walk against David Price.

The mini-hot steak came to an abrupt end in mid-August and Romine went only 3-for-27 (.111) with seven strikeouts the rest of the way. His season ended on September 10th against the Orioles, when he took a foul tip to the face mask and suffered a concussion. Romine was actually cleared to play late in the season but Girardi didn’t take a chance. They basically shut him down for the year, which was a wise move.

All told, Romine hit an awful .207/.255/.296 (48 wRC+) with just the one homer in 148 plate appearances this season. He only threw out eight of 38 attempted base-stealers as well, a well-below-average 21%. I thought he was okay on balls in the dirt and stuff like that, but who really knows. There isn’t an easy or reliable way to quantify that stuff.

What we do know is that Romine was terrible at the plate and at throwing runners out. Really terrible. The little hot streak was encouraging but who knows if it was a glimpse of what he can really do or just that, a hot streak. Either way, Romine was given a great opportunity this summer and he couldn’t capitalize. The starting catching job is wide open both right now and for the foreseeable future, yet he was unable to take advantage. Romine could have cemented himself in the team’s long-term plans with a strong showing this summer, but it just didn’t happen.

Steinbrenner, Torre, and Martin on Hall of Fame's Expansion Era ballot
Thoughts at the open of free agency
  • ropeadope

    His best at-bat of the season was a walk?

  • moonimus

    It’s true that Austin Romine did not capitalize on his opportunity to cement some role on the team but how come the usual “small sample size” qualifier wasn’t used here? I still think he still has a chance to prove that he can stick in the show.

  • nsalem

    ditto David Adams

    • I’m One

      Yeah, bot of them had golden opportunities and couldn’t do anything with them. Too bad. Could have changed the complexion of this offseason to some extent.

      • I’m One


  • LarryM Fl

    It was a minimal opportunity. If no FA agent catcher is acquired in the off season. I would expect to see Romine and Cervelli at the catching position. Let the best man win the job and go with him. Make either one feel as the number one catcher unless they fall off the cliff.

  • Thuthicknthin

    Too small of a sample size to make this assessment of a kid shoved into his first year in the show.

    They don’t all come like Trout, Machado and Harper. Most need some adjustment time and with the state of the Yankees for next season…let’s see what we got. LET HIM PLAY!

  • Upstate Yanks Fan

    I agree with these ‘too small a sample size’ comments. Mike, I’m pretty sure that your first efforts at this RAB site were comparable to Romine’s efforts early on. Not everybody hits the ground running at 100MPH and keeps the pace going until they retire…give the kid a break and as has already been said, let the kids play. We may have more than what we think in some of these youngsters like Romine, Murphy and Adams. Sometimes the opportunity to fail w/o being publicly humiliated is the opportunity they need to succeed in the long run.

  • jjyank

    I agree with the other comments here. I would classify this as “What Went Wrong: Not Seeing What We Have In Romine”.

    Sure, Romine didn’t do much to force the issue in the chances he was given. But we talk about how hard it is for a player to be a pinch hitter off the bench all the time, and I can’t imagine it’s easy for a rookie, who is used to playing every day, to come into the big leagues and play sporadically at the same time. If Romine was backing up a legitimate starter…okay, I get that. But Stewart? Honestly, that’s probably my biggest gripe with Girardi from 2013.

    • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

      A little part of me is terrified that Joe G will find some way to have the Yankees tender Stewart a contract for 2014 or *gulp* even multiple years.

      But then my rational side takes over and convinces me it just can’t happen. I was not a Russell Martin fan at all, and frankly I’m actually glad they didn’t re-sign him; but imagine the ridiculousness of the Yanks declining a reasonable deal on a catcher who is good defensively and accidentally runs into some HR’s every once in a while and then giving a deal to a catcher who does absolutely nothing. Shudder.

  • Andrew

    To me this is an unwarranted What Went Wrong, since it detracts from the opportunity to really blow out the Chris Stewart shaming. I’m talking hilarious GIFs, spray charts, lamentations for Russell Martin, the works!

  • matt

    I feel like if he played more then Stewart he would have been better. He was use to playing everyday in the minors and he did not play much when he became the backup. Girardi did not use him right and I would have started Romine over Stewart because he was younger and showed he could hit but the chances he got were not enough.

  • http://riveravenueblues mississippi doc

    Do we actually have a consensus opinion? As good a job as Joe G did, he kind of blew it with Romine? Stewart had/has nothing really to offer and Romine might. We just never got to find out. Adams did have more of an opportunity. For all of us who unfairly bashed the Yankees for “ruining” Joba and Hughes (they flopped on their own), the nonuse of Romine is a better case in point, esp. since Stewart was not much of an alternative.

  • blehmann

    Besides the SSS caveat, it is worth remembering that Romine logged almost no time at AAA due to injuries. While some guys can jump from AA and below to the Show, not everyone can and, I expect, that is especially true of catchers. Couple that with Girardi’s love of Stewart, and it is pretty clear that the verdict is still way out on Romine. I agree that Mike’s judgement on him is a little harsh.

    • RetroRob

      Yup, and that’s actuall a concern. He missed most of 2012, and then he had very little playing time in 2013 as he was forced onto the big league club early on, and then sat most of the year. Lost development and lost is the ability for the Yankees to assess his skills, or even see if his back can stand up to a full season of catching. He is a question mark.

  • RetroRob

    I don’t believe Mike is burying Romine, or asking he be taken out back and shot like Stewart or Ichiro. It’s a simple fact. Romine didn’t contribute and he had the opportunity to step forward and take the job. That can only be classified as “what went wrong.”

    Overall, though, I agree with a few of the comments above. What went wrong is not Romine, but how he was used…or not used. Yet no matter how we want to slice it, he still fits into the what-went-wrong category.