(Ed: The signing was first reported by DRaysBay user dacnole)
The Rays took another step in solidifying their bullpen today by adding Kyle Farnsworth.
Just a few seasons ago, Farnsworth served as the punchline in numerous jokes. For good reason too, his 2007 and 2008 seasons were horrible by any measure – FanGraphs’ WAR even had him below replacement level. Yet, he has been a reliable arm since. Over the last two seasons, Farnsworth has managed over 100 innings with a FIP around 3.08 and nearly 2 wins above replacement level.
Farnsworth’s reputation precedes him as someone who strikes out many men, walks about half of that total, and gives up a home run every nine innings. That description can be updated as Farnsworth has improved his walk rates quite a bit over the last several seasons (of total plate appearances):
While also maintaining his strikeout rates (of total plate appearances):
And yes, even reducing his home run totals (of total plate appearances):
His woeful time with the New York Yankees is obviously concerning, but his other time in the American League – albeit the American League Central – suggests that he is not someone who only thrives in a National League environment. Tropicana Field’s park factors suggest it is a friendly place for pitchers and children alike, which should only help Farnsworth out.
Baseball Info Solutions’ pitch data suggests the upswing in results coincides with the addition of a cutter to Farnsworth’s repertoire. Correlation does not equal causation and there is a chance Farnsworth threw the cutter all along, but classification issues labeled the pitches as sliders. Still, one cannot help but wonder how the addition of a cutter changed the dynamics of Farnsworth’s arsenal. Farnworth always brings the heat, with an average fastball velocity a hair less than 95 miles per hour. Batters may swing, but they also miss often, as only once in Farnsworth’s big league career (which dates back to 2002) has he gone an entire season with a whiff rate under 10%.
About a month ago, a post featured the above table. Farnsworth fares better than others who have signed since, including Octavio Dotel – who will make $3 million this season. Farnsworth gets slightly more than Dotel here and it’s a perfectly acceptable contract.