Detroit — Try to understand where Andrew Romine is coming from on this.
Well, maybe it is best to first understand where he’s not coming from. He’s not upset or bitter about his role with the Tigers. He relishes his role and he’s excelled in it. His multi-positional versatility and his super utility skill set has allowed him to carve out a highly respected niche for himself in the big leagues.
Romine's got no complaints about that.
But, in the back of his mind, there is this gnawing thought. How good could he be if he played regularly, if he was allowed, just once, to get 600 at-bats in a season?
“I don’t even know what my ceiling is,” Romine said. “During the time I was with the Angels, there were a couple of stretches where I played every day for a month or maybe a little more and my numbers were pretty good.
“Then I went back on the bench and the numbers go back down. But that’s everybody. Every person in this room (the clubhouse) would be better if they played every day.”
Romine, now that he’s added outfield to his resume, is going to play more games (he’s already at 93) and have more plate appearances (264) than he’s had in any of his four big-league seasons with the Tigers. He’s also produced career-highs in slugging percentage (.351), homers (four), doubles (12) and RBIs (20).
And, to his point, when he’s started and played in longer stretches over consecutive days, his numbers have been creditable.
With the Angels in 2013, he started 23 games in September and hit .291 with a .329 on-base percentage in 89 plate appearances. With the Tigers in September 2014, he started over a 19-game stretch and hit .311 with a .354 on-base percentage.
This year, with J.D. Martinez starting the season on the disabled list, Romine got 33 starts from April 9-June 3 and hit .237 with a career-best .681 OPS. He hit seven doubles, two triples, two home runs and knocked in 13 runs in that stretch.
“If you tell a guy that he’s going to play every day and you are going to get 600 at-bats, and we going to let you play and we’re not going to care if you suck, well, that person’s probably going to do well,” Romine said. “Because otherwise that person wouldn’t have been able to get to this level.
“Everybody here has that talent. It’s just getting the chance to do it over a long period of time.”
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was asked what he thought Romine’s ceiling might be if he got the chance to play every day.
“The only way to find out how a guy would do if he played regularly would be to play him on a regular basis,” Ausmus said.
Unfortunately, that narrative doesn’t fit what is perceived organizationally to be Romine’s best asset.
“He does an excellent job for us because of his versatility,” Ausmus said. “He is more valuable in a utility role, unfortunately for him. But, listen, if he was hitting .300 and driving in runs, then he’d be starting and we’d just find a different position for him to play every day.
“There is a reason he has gotten more at-bats this year than ever before.”
That’s sort of the catch-22 that all utility players are in. You can’t play every day unless you hit .300 and you can’t hit .300 playing every fourth of fifth day, or getting an at-bat here or there late in games.
“As far as my role, it’s pretty much a given what I’m going to be producing,” Romine said. “If I produce that, then that’s what they expect. If I do more, awesome. That’s usually the deal with anybody who has the utility tag.
“When you move around and play once a week, they aren’t expecting you to hit .300. And you aren’t going to hit .300 playing once a week.”
A large percentage of a utility player’s starts come in day games after night games. A good percentage of their at-bats come after they’ve been inserted late in games, and they have to face power-armed relievers after they’ve been sitting on the bench for two and a half hours.
It’s a marvel, really, that Romine has the production he’s had this season.
“If all my 200 at-bats were together, if I got them straight through, that would give a good idea of what somebody might be capable of,” he said. “But when it’s 200 at-bats spread out over six months, that’s not an easy way to judge somebody.”