Thursday, February 11, 2010
Royals turn to alchemy
Yes, the Royals are going to see if Kyle Farnsworth can start. And yes, everyone (including me) has already mocked them for it. But hold on a minute. According to Dave Cameron, this is so crazy it just might work:
His strikeout rate is actually higher against left-handed hitters, which is unusual for a power righty. He’s still better against RHBs, as the strikeouts don’t offset the higher walk and lower groundball rates, but the difference isn’t huge. He’s not the type of pitcher who is going to fall apart when the opposing manager stacks the line-up with left-handed bats.
There’s also reasons to be encouraged that he may have learned something last year. As McClure notes in the linked article, they got him to start throwing both a two-seam and a four-seam fastball last year, and it significantly changed his pitch mix.
This new wrinkle paid dividends. He’d been an extreme flyball guy most of his career, which was one of the driving causes behind his home run problems. With his new lower velocity fastball, he posted a 46% GB% in 2009, drastically reducing his long ball issues. Thanks to the limiting of his biggest problem, he posted a 3.10 xFIP, his lowest since 2005.
In a lot of ways, Farnsworth is reminiscent of Ryan Dempster, another power reliever with command problems who flourished with a move to the rotation. It’s not wise to expect that kind of outcome, but there are reasons to believe that Farnsworth could find success in the conversion. The stuff is good enough, especially with his new pitch mix, and it’s certainly worth the experiment.
The Royals take a lot of crap from us, but I’ll applaud them for recognizing an opportunity here. Farnsworth could justify his contract, and then some, if this works.
Cameron's right: the Royals should be applauded, if only for the original thought. I'll ask you, has anyone else suggested that Farnsworth try to pitch six innings every five days?
Now, here's why I'm skeptical:
1. The Dempster comparison is interesting, but before Dempster was a power reliever, he was a starter and once pitched in an All-Star Game. In Farnsworth's 26 career starts, a long time ago, he went 6-11 with a 5.81 ERA. Granted, he might not have been throwing the two-seamer then.
2. In a related note, there's no particular reason to think Farnsworth can maintain his stuff for more than an inning or two. We all know that pitchers throw harder when they don't have to pace themselves. Last year he was throwing his four-teamer at 96 and his two-seamer at 90. Can he be effective if those numbers drop to 92 and 87? And without any changeup to speak of?
3. It's the Royals. They're better at turning gold into lead than lead into gold.
Obviously, I hope I'm wrong. It would be a great story, and I'll be thrilled to write it.