By Gary Hill
When Danny Farquhar strolls to the hill, those epic words from Charles Dickens seem echo in the mind: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
This is not “A Tale of Two Cities” but rather a tale of two relief pitchers.
The first pitcher in question scuffled through his first 17 MLB games this season. He yielded 32 hits and walked 12 while featuring a hefty 8.77 ERA. He has been shuffled from Toronto to Oakland then Toronto and back to Oakland during his career. He has experienced the true definition of a “New York minute” during his brief stay in the Yankees organization before being shipped to Seattle. He pitched for minor-league teams in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; New Hampshire; Sacramento, Calif.; Trenton, N.J. and Tacoma in just the last two seasons.
After a rough start to the season, Mariners reliever Danny Farquhar has been lights out in his last 15 appearances. (AP)
The second pitcher is now the lock-down closer for the Mariners. If Farquhar’s first 17 games were the worst of times then his most recent 15 appearances have been the best of times. His ERA has been a microscopic 0.96. He has fanned a whopping 30 hitters while walking just five and he has only yielded eight hits during that time.
From July 21 to Aug. 21 he was scored on in only one of his 15 outings. He has been perfect in his last four trips to the mound (four innings, zero hits, zero runs, zero walks and seven strikeouts). Wednesday in Oakland was the exclamation point. He threw 18 pitches and 12 of them were strikes as he fanned all three hitters he faced to lock down his ninth save.
His recent success has been a culmination of settling on his comfortable arm slot and harnessing his wicked stuff. Despite the fact he is listed at 5 feet 9 and 180 pounds, he can hum a fastball to the plate at a surprising pace. He is pumping his fastball at an average of 94.7 mph, which is 42nd best in the game. Jeff Sullivan just penned a piece at FanGraphs.com that listed Farquhar’s curveball as the most unhittable pitch in the game so far this season.
The truth is that the results may just be catching up to what has been bubbling underneath the surface for Farquhar. He has been striking out hitters at an impressive rate throughout the season.
Strikeout rate leaders:
1. Aroldis Chapman, 14.96
2. Greg Holland, 14.14
3. Andrew Miller, 14.09
4. Jason Grilli, 14.03
5. Danny Farquhar, 13.82
6. Craig Kimbrel, 13.68
As the layers are peeled back even further you find Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). FIP is a way to measure a pitcher assuming that performances on balls in play are league average. It is essentially a way of trying to measure a pitcher of terms of what the pitcher can specifically control such as strikeouts, walks and homers, and striping away what a pitcher cannot be responsible for.
Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) takes this concept ever further by replacing a pitcher’s home-run total with an estimate of what he should have allowed given a league average home-run-to-fly-ball rate. The number ends up looking like an ERA and in these terms anything around 3.00 is great, 4.00 is average, and the 5.00 range is not good.
For example, here is the top 10 for starters in terms of xFIP (minimum of 20 starts).
1. Matt Harvey, 2.31
2. Yu Darvish, 2.66
3. Adam Wainwright, 2.68
4. Felix Hernandez, 2.71
5. Chris Sale, 2.90
6. A.J. Burnett, 2.91
7. Clayton Kershaw, 2.92
8. Anibal Sanchez, 2.95
9. Cliff Lee, 3.04
10. Max Scherzer, 3.07
The list is very impressive and populated by some of the best pitchers in the game. Here is the top 10 for relievers:
1. Greg Holland, 1.50
2. Danny Farquhar, 2.04
3. Kenley Jansen, 2.04
4. Craig Kimbrel, 2.05
5. Jason Grilli, 2.07
6. Mark Melancon, 2.19
7. Koji Uehara, 2.20
8. Aroldis Chapman, 2.33
9. Andrew Miller, 2.44
10. Trevor Rosenthal, 2.48
Even when Farquhar’s surface numbers in his first handful of appearances were ugly, he maintained a solid FIP. This could be a case of numbers finally catching up to the good stuff that that had been going on underneath. The numbers indicate that Farquhar’s new role may be more than temporary.
Fun facts regarding Mariners saves
• With his next save, Farquhar will become the 25th Mariners pitcher to record double-digit saves in a season. Kazuhiro Sasaki, Norm Charlton and Mike Schooler all recorded more than 10 saves in a season four times each.
• Mariners saves leader on their current active roster:
Danny Farquhar, 9
Oliver Perez, 2
Lucas Luetge, 2
Hisashi Iwakuma, 2
Yoervis Medina, 1
• Farquhar is currently tied with Arthur Rhodes for 30th on the Mariners’ all-time saves list.
• Randy Johnson saved two games in a Mariners uniform.
• Hall of Famer Rich “Goose” Gossage saved 310 games in his big-league career. His last save came in his last MLB game. In classic Gossage fashion, he went three hitless innings against the Rangers to preserve the win for the Mariners. He saved exactly one game for the M’s.
• The only Mariner with more saves than Farquhar in fewer games pitcher is Ted Power. He saved 13 games in 1993 while only pitching a total of 25 games in his brief M’s career.