The Oakland A’s made a call to the bullpen on Tuesday, and this person came out to the mound.
I was watching on a slight DVR delay so I hadn’t yet gotten to this point on my feed, and when I saw that tweet I genuinely didn’t know whom it was a photo of. There was a quick moment of panic — had I missed a transaction earlier that day, and this was a new pitcher the team had just added?
Nope, it was Sergio Romo. Or most of him, without his signature beard.
As a reminder, here’s what Romo looked like at the beginning of spring training.
But that was nothing compared with last summer.
Sergio Romo's beard is solid pic.twitter.com/hwFgRbC0FB— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) August 1, 2020
Romo said that 2020 was the longest he ever let his whiskers grow, waiting nearly two years between trims. It was even more majestic in video form.
But of course, Romo’s beard wasn’t new last year in Minnesota. It’s been famous for over a decade, back to his days pitching on the other side of the Bay, and it’s even had its own Twitter account since 2010.
My owner fell asleep again with the tv on. Wake up @SergioRomo54 You know I have to sleep in total silence.— Sergio Romo's Beard (@RomosBeard) April 27, 2020
The legend has only grown since then.
Sergio Romo's beard is Brent Burns status.— Chelena Goldman (@ChelenaGoldman) March 19, 2016
Sergio Romo has the beard and body of an evil wizard but somehow he chose to focus his powers on throwing a slider (??)— Chork (@cdgoldstein) April 11, 2017
Sergio Romo is more beard than face at this point. Soon he'll just be one giant beard— Matt Monagan (@MattMonagan) August 6, 2020
By last summer it’s not so much that he had a beard, but rather that his beard had grown a Sergio Romo.
Although most of us don’t have it saved in our memory banks, this isn’t actually the first time we’ve seen Romo’s chin in the majors. In 2011 he tried the Civil War general, and in 2014 he briefly got rid of the whole thing. But that doesn’t take any of the shock out of this latest change.
He jumped in that time machine Lowrie’s living in— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) April 14, 2021
What’s more, for the superstitious among us, the reboot has already yielded dividends. He was struggling to begin the year with his new team, but on Tuesday after shaving he enjoyed his best outing yet, a quick 1-2-3 inning including one strikeout. It was his first perfect frame of the season, in his fifth try, and only the second time he’s avoided any runs. He even earned his first hold, protecting a slim lead in the 8th.
A quick statistical analysis shows an unmistakable improvement, in sample sizes of over 10 pitches each.
- Romo, 2021 w/ beard: 9.82 ERA, 0.7 K/BB, .313 avg, .388 xwOBA
- Romo, 2021 w/o beard: 0.00 ERA, ∞ K/BB, .000 avg, .150 xwOBA
His wOBEARD metric is off the charts.
It remains to be seen what the future holds, but a look back at Romo’s career history suggests a high likelihood that the beard will return at some point, to some extent. See below for an annual progression from his preseason Photo Day shots. The top row is 2009-12 in order, then 2013-16, then 2017-20, and then the final row is February 2021 followed by Tuesday.
Whatever style he ends up with this summer, it’s gonna look great in a green and gold jersey.