The second post in a series. The first, on Jose Guillen, can be found here.
It's a credit to Kyle Farnsworth that we can even have this conversation this summer.
|2010 - Kyle Farnsworth||2-0||33||0||0||0||0||1||40.0||34||10||10||2||10||30||2.25||1.10|
- Farnsworth's ERA sits at 2.25 right now, a number he hasn't really remotely approached since 2005, when he posted a 2.19 ERA with Detroit & Atlanta. Other than that, all we really have in this ERA neighborhood is Farnsy's 2.74 ERA with the Cubs in 2001. The ERA is definitely in play as a selling point.
- Two of Farnsworth's traditional pratfalls, the walk and the homer, are down this season. He's walking only 2.3 batters per nine, a career low. The same is true for his HR/9 (0.5).
- A reputation for great stuff. It's always been there, it probably always will be.
- There's now a narrative established that the Royals have returned Farnsworth to a more prominent role. He's rehabilitated now. In the world of relievers, the psychological aspect of the game is highly valued by many inside baseball and there's now positive buzz about Farnsy's playing-in-role abilities.
- Relievers tend to get traded. They're usually on short contracts, they run hot and cold (or are thought to) which encourages a desire to grab a hot arm while you can, and everyone always thinks they need bullpen help. Literally, the fans, media, players, and front office people with every team thinks, right now, "we need bullpen help."
- Success for pitchers is often like a reverse of the weather: behind the rainbow, lies a storm. This kind of analysis has become a sabermetric cliche, but that's because it's based on solid principles. We can break this next section down into multiple bullet points, or a single one. In short, that ERA isn't likely to last. Why not?
- The luck factors for Farnsworth show that he's been fortunate. His BABIP is .279 this year, not incredibly lucky, but a little giving nonetheless. In, part, because of that BABIP, Farnsworth also has a high strand rate: 83.7%. Like the BABIP, that's not OMG out of whack, but it's also one that probably won't last. Of relievers with 30 IP in the AL, that's the 12th best out of 55. Most importantly, the low HR number is a little funky. Kyle has only allowed HRs in 4.9% of his fly balls this year. There's absolutely no precedent for that number in Farnsy's career, which is fairly long. His previous career low is 8.3%, set last year, in KC. On their own, regression in these stats might not be a killer for a two month rental, but when you have the possibility of a BABIP+STRAND+HR cocktail looming... its not pretty. As such, ZIPS projects an ERA of 4.32 the rest of the way. Not terrible, but not really a bullpen asset.
- For the prototypical stuff pitcher, KF's strikeouts are down this year. At just 6.8 K/P, Farnsworth is striking out the fewest batters of his career as a reliever. Again, you can make all the same point over and over again, but in sum, does it really make sense that Farnsworth would post a near career high ERA, with a career low K rate? Maybe. But the Royals will need to sell that story.
- I'm skeptical that Farnsworth has really moved up to a more prominent role in the bullpen. Maybe he's not in exile anymore, but he's clearly below Soria and Tejeda, and probably below Wood. So he's been rehabilitated to the fourth guy in a bad bullpen. Um, great?
- Farnsworth is owed roughly $2 million in salary, to which we can add $0.5m in a likely buyout for 2011. It's not crippling money, but it's money that will be in the conversation. The Royals will either need to eat that money or take a lesser prospect in return. The Royals have to decide if they want a salary dump or a more interesting player in return.
- As with Guillen, Farnsworth also has a negative reputation around baseball. Unlike with Guillen, these concerns are purely baseball related (more or less). Farnsworth has played for five teams for a reason. With his fireball comes the potential for combustion.
The Royals overpaid for Farnsworth in the 2009 off-season, both in terms of years and money spent. However, in an odd way, while the money remains an issue, that patented extra year of Dayton Moore's (see Pods, Kendall, etc.) has paid off. Farnsworth was unmovable last season, but that isn't true in 2010. There's a minor deal for Farnsworth out there to be made, it simply comes down to how motivated the Royals are to make it. It is unlikely that the Royals will receive a future Major Leaguer back in return, but not impossible. For both Farnsworth and the Royals, the clock is ticking.