I wanted to write this after game 1 after reading Hillman's defense of Farnsworth because his comment illustrated perfectly the difference between performance analysts and scouts. Unfortunately, I have another opportunity to write about it today, following an equally heartbreaking and damaging loss.
Recall Hillman's (approximate) quote after Thome's HR on opening day: The problem wasn't the pitch, the problem was the location. Well, we all pretty much agreed that that analysis was pretty much worthless, which is fine. Hillman has zero obligation to criticize his players or share his unvarnished thoughts to the media. In fact, it's counterproductive. It does no good to rip on players in the media. But what has made the whole Farnsworth signing and subsequent conflagrations so frustrating is just how damn predictable it has been.
My point: Most of us reading and posting on this website are performance analysts out of necessity (we have the tools to analyze stats, but very few of us have the tools to scout), and though we deny it, we view PECOTA (or CHONE or MARCEL etc) as destiny. We all know in our core that Kyle Farnsworth will always be flammable because that's what he's almost always been. On the other hand, the Royals braintrust are scouts and as such they don't believe that projections are destiny or that past performance guarantees future results. They believe that with coaching and with patience players with tools can be turned into players with skills.
Sometimes this approach works beautifully: The Gil Meche signing was viewed as an abomination by any performance analyst worth his pocket protector. The trade for Kyle Davies was widely viewed as a huge disappointment based mainly on Davies' peripherals as a Brave. Those two pitchers are now cost-effective parts of this team's cornerstone for the next three years and they never would have been acquired by a less tools-savvy organization.
Sometimes it works poorly: Joey Gathright was a bust (although it's important to note that JP Howell seems to be a fungible commodity at this point). Jose Guillen is vastly overpaid. And of course, Farnsworth is proving to be what he's always been, combustible.
Anyway, that quote above by Hillman is incredibly instructive. Baseball Men (BM) will say that if only Farnsworth would locate his pitches better, he would be a dominant pitcher. And that's certainly true. BM argue that Farnsworth can be taught to locate better either by landing on his toe or by clearing his hips or rotating his shoulder or whatever. And maybe they're right. Maybe there is some mechanical fix that can turn Farnsworth into something more than he's been for the last 5 years. (Incidentally, this is also the defense for Farnsworth's usage. The Royals think that Farnsworth can be a dominant reliever so of course it makes sense to use him in game-critical situations.) But from where I sit PECOTA is destiny. Farnsworth can't locate better. He simply can't. He is what he's always been. And that it seems so obvious from the outside looking in makes the whole deal triply frustrating.
The Royals under Dayton Moore will continue to make these kinds of mistakes. That's the cost of doing business in this way. Farnsworth, Guillen and Jacobs are the cost of Meche, Davies and Callaspo. Maybe it's worth it. Today it doesn't feel like it.