Sometimes, seeing is believing.
That’s been the case with Seattle Mariners and their current closer Danny Farquhar. Though he’d been groomed over much of his pro career to be a ninth-inning man, there wasn’t exactly a whole lot about the 26-year-old’s track record both past and current for the team to just hand him the job.
Then again, relievers are often a risk-reward exercise, and in taking a chance here, the M’s have been rewarded with what can only be called a breakout performance.
Consider Farquar’s career trajectory prior to 2013. Long a prospect of the Toronto Blue Jays, he’d basically become a veritable minor league journeyman over the course of a year, having been passed on to three different systems in 2012 alone, with Seattle being his current destination.
It’s a funny thing too, because with a 2.65/1.03 ERA/WHIP over 65 innings across five different teams and a 9.3 K/9, you’d figure someone would have given him a chance.
So when he emerged with the M’s in 2012 with a solid run in the minors (20 IP, 2.25/1.05 ERA/WHIP), Seattle did just that, and for the most part … well, let’s just say he didn’t exactly reward them for their faith.
Over 28.1 innings in 21 appearances out of the bullpen in non-save situations, Farquhar walked batters at an unsightly 4.16 BB/9 rate, allowing 20 runs (18 earned) in the process, good for a 5.72/1.41 ERA/WHIP that made it very clear just why is it that he’d been handed from minor league system to minor league system …
… well, that is except for his whopping 43 strikeouts in those same innings. That 13.7 K/9 isn’t just good — it’s elite.
Despite the counting numbers indicating otherwise, Farquar had been more of a victim of bad luck (.343 BABIP to date, 59 percent strand rate). He’d limited his fly balls (1.25 GB/FB), didn’t allow home runs (0.36 HR/9, none in non-save situations), and all the team had to look at his 1.75 FIP to see that better days were yet to come.
Was it a bit of a leap of faith, especially for manager Eric Wedge, who isn’t exactly a fan of sabermetrics?
Probably. But again, seeing was believing, and numbers or not, it was easy to see that his stuff was there, and at a 13.6 percent swinging strike rate, hitters weren’t really coning all that close, despite what the ERA might have you believe.
13 handshakes later, there’s little doubt about that now.
Continuing with his swing-and-miss ways with 29 strikeouts over 21 innings in save situations, Farquhar has allowed just 12 hits on a .167 BAA. Best of all, a switch has seemingly been flipped with the increased leverage, as he’s only walked five batters (plus two intentional) in that span.
That’s enough for him to put together 2.14/0.81 ERA/WHIP in save situations on the season — a night-and-day difference from his low-leverage outings.
At 0.7 fWAR over the last month, he’s tied for third among his peers for the most valuable reliever in the game in that span. Whether it’s going to last or not is impossible to say — he is a closer after all, and they tend to have short careers at the top; still, if you didn’t already know his way to the top, you’d think he was always destined for it.
Even though that’s hardly the case, I think it’s fair to say that Seattle is probably pretty pleased that they gave Farquhar a shot instead of passing on him like three other teams, no?