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Is It Time to Rethink Kyle Farnsworth?

Is it time to reconsider Kyle Farnsworth and his place in the bullpen?

Is there any chance that Farnsworth, after nearly a month in low-leverage exile, can again be trusted with a game on the line?

After throwing eight scoreless innings, Farnsworth has lowered his ERA from 18.90 to 5.56. Moreover, he's done so while others around him have began or continued to struggle (Wright, Tejeda, Mahay).

Before we take a look at the numbers, I'd like to acknowledge something. When Dayton Moore signed Farnsworth (2 years, $9.25 million) it was a horrible day for Royals fans but a great one for Royals bloggers: when you're writing for free time in your spare time, it helps to always have good joke and "look how smart I am" fodder, which Farnsworth provided instantly. Beyond that, his high profile failures were/are great for generating comments and posts from readers, many of them pretty amusing. In short, he was probably the best thing to happen to the Royals blogosphere since Google Image Search. All of that being said, I'm willing to be a team player here: the Royals need Kyle Farnsworth to work out, even if means making bloggers look wrong.

So let's take a look at Farnsy's season thus far, gigantic chart-style:

(BF=Batters faced, P-S= Pitches-Strikes, bad outings in bold)

Date BF Hs BBs Ks HRs Runs P-S
4-7 6 4 0 1 1 3 24-17
4-10 3 0 0 3 0 0 16-14
4-13 4 0 1 0 0 0 17-10
4-15 4 2 1 0 0 3 17-10
4-19 1 1 0 0 1 1 2-1
4-21 3 0 1 0 0 0 12-7
4-27 4 1 0 1 0 0 25-15
4-28 5 2 0 1 0 0 17-13
5-1 4 0 1 1 0 0 21-13
5-6 5 1 0 1 0 0 18-13
5-8 7 1 0 2 0 0 23-19
5-12 3 0 0 1 0 0 10-7
5-14 3 0 0 0 0 0 5-4


(I'll wait a minute as you try to recover from dizziness after staring at that number soup. Apologies for the last date being somewhat weird.)

Overall, I'm not sure what the immediate takeaway is here, but I'll offer my own analysis. Hopefully, you all can push this discussion forward in the comments as well.

  • I think Farnsworth has had some luck during this scoreless streak. In those three late April appearances especially, he was hardly dominant. Not awful, not "I have no idea how they didn't score" but not brilliant or anything either. That being said, he's been good in May.
  • If you're looking for something just based on the numbers, you can see that he's been in the strikezone with a bit more frequency as of late.
  • Two of the first nine batters Farnsworth faced homered off him, however since then he's gone homerless for 31 straight batters. Thanks to that, his homer-rate is down to 1.46/9, which is actually kinda a good number for Farnsworth. Homers are Farnsworth's career bugaboo, and while I don't believe the "he's due" line of thinking is necessarily correct, it's also unlikely that he's turned a corner either. So now, at this point in the season, he's had some bad outings, which happened to be clustered together, and some good outings, which also happened to be clustered together. He's not an 18.90 ERA guy, or a 0.00 ERA guy of course. This is the guy he is, right now, the 5.56 ERA guy.
  • As you can see above, when he doesn't allow a homer, he rarely allows any runs, thanks to all the strikeouts he gets. That gets to the paradox of Farnsworth: on one hand, you'd never want him pitching with men on, because of the homer potential (see Jim Thome, Opening Day) but on the other hand, you'll always want that strikeout with two men on. Basically, he has a boom/bust, manager-killing profile.
  • In general, I don't really believe in the leverage excuse or credit, which is why I left it out. Maybe in extremes, say, comparing a 10-1 game to a tie game in the playoffs, sure, but on the whole I think its too simplistic and doesn't take into account the basic professionalism of these guys, both in the positive and negative sense. We can bang this out in the comments if you'd like, but I should lay that out there.
  • Lastly, perhaps theres another story being told in the Pitch f/x and scouting data, which I haven't looked at. Just last night, the first batter Farnsworth faced missed a double by about a foot, but instead just "grounded sharply to third". Things like that need to be taken into consideration.

So is there a recommendation here? I'm certainly not advocating that he should return to the setup role, which was wrong on the day before Opening Day when Trey announced it, and is wrong now. Essentially, Farnsworth has worked his way back to his career level, which wasn't very good. Similarly, I don't think he's a great fireman in the 7th or 8th, because with his HR tendencies, you don't want him allowing three run homers with the game on the line.

I suppose, if I had to make a strong statement, I'd say that I think he's worked his way back to being the 7th inning guy (in a non-Soria setting), but should always be strongly in danger of being pulled if anyone gets on. For now, I'd still like to see Hillman try to use Mahay/Wright in the 8th and play the matchups, and go with Cruz in the 9th. (Assuming the normal "rules" of moden bullpen management, that hardcore leverage and the opposing team's lineup can only be considered in a lefty-righty sense, thus meaning Cruz will face 6-7-8 in the 9th and worse guys will face 3-4-5 in the 8th, just because that's the way we do things.) This leaves, for now, Tejeda and Ponson, I guess, as long-men, and puts Ho-Ram, I guess, alongside Farnsworth. Needless to say, the Royals' bullpen is starting to get weird.

So yes, to a limited degree, we should should rethink Kyle Farnsworth. He's back to being the medicore to bad reliever that Dayton Moore wanted all along. Make of this what you will.