The familiar story of Kyle Farnsworth

The importance of putting away hitters
The new and improved bullpen

When the Yankees acquired Kyle Farnsworth prior to the 2006 season, he was coming off one stellar 2005 campaign. It started off in Detroit, where he tossed 42.2 innings to a 2.32 ERA. He was then traded to Atlanta, where he proceeded to mow down the Senior Circuit, striking out 32 and walking just seven in 27.1 innings, amassing a 1.98 ERA and a 0.805 WHIP. With the loss of Tom Gordon and a generally meager setup crew, the Yanks needed an arm and Farnsworth was on their list.

The results, as we saw, were terrible. Farnsworth walked too many guys and was seemingly incapable of turning in a 1-2-3 inning in a big spot. Unsurprisingly, we are now seeing more of the same in Kansas City. The Royals, in a moment when reason abandoned them, signed Farnsworth this winter to a two-year, $9 million contract. They later signed Juan Cruz for less than that.

You might look at Farnsworth’s BR page and think, “What’s wrong with that?” After all, he has a 3.43 ERA and a 1.095 WHIP through 21 innings, not to mention a 4.2 K/BB ratio. Those are sterling numbers for sure, ones the Yanks thought they were getting when they signed Farnsworth. However, as in most cases, the numbers don’t show everything.

We turn to the world’s foremost expert on the Kansas City Royals, Joe Posnanski. After marveling at Farnsworth’s career, JoPo turns to his performance. The reason Farnsworth has been so good is that, for the most part, he’s pitched in the lowest of low-leverage situations. That’s for good reason, though. He kind of blew a few games early on, much to everyone’s surprise.

On Opening Day, Farnsworth came into a 2-1 game, Royals leading, and he gave up a three-run homer to Jim Thome. So, as they say, he announced his presence with authority.

A week later, he came into a 2-2 game … gave up a double, a single, balked, another walk and came out of the game with a loss. Four days later, he came into a 5-5 game in the ninth in Texas and promptly gave up the walk-off homer to Michael Young.

Of course, between the Thome homer and the balk game, Farnsworth managed to strike out the side against the Yanks. Go figure. After these three blown games he was inserted into 13 straight situations of the lowest possible leverage, games where the Royals were down 8-3 and 10-0. He did get one decently big spot, with runners on second and third with a 5-2 lead and pitched out of it. Go Kyle! It did fall apart last Thursday, though, when the Royals inserted Farnsworth into a tie game only to have him promptly blow it, recording no outs before the game-winning run crossed.

I do not miss Kyle Farnsworth. Despite the stretch last year where he actually pitched well, he was nothing short of disaster for the Yanks. That shouldn’t have been surprising, though. The Yanks had to have known when they signed him that he wouldn’t live up to the contract. There was no way he could. He was an every-other-year guy, and with the Yanks he couldn’t even pull that. It’s a bit of schadenfreude, of course, to talk about him now. The whole situation just highlights exactly why I’m glad the Yanks will never have him in the bullpen again.

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The importance of putting away hitters
The new and improved bullpen
  • pete c.

    So, he’s the Alex Rodriguez of the pitchers mound? Seems to only perform when it doesn’t count.

    • Jamal G.

      Please, for all that is good and right in this world, please tell me that this was a joke.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

        Dammit. I was hoping no one would respond to this.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I kept wanting to, and then I’d be like, “No, Tommie, don’t. He’s insane, this argument isn’t going to end well.”

    • the artist formerly known as (sic)

      Pete Caldera you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

    • radnom

      He’s more like the pitching version of your mom.

      Too many balls.

  • jsbrendog

    0-4 i think he was before he even got out of april. what a way to endear yourself to the fans of your new team. that team is effed with guys like ihm and jose guillen. pure character guys. ha

  • Jeremy

    I don’t understand why a small market team would commit such a serious chunk of change to Farnsworth after his last contract had gone so poorly. The Royals can’t afford a gamble like that.

    • http://deleted RollingWave

      it’s why some teams havn’t made the playoff for over a decade despite a less than stellar competition.

  • Jake H

    Poor Kyle.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    The Royals, in a moment where reason abandoned them in their totally typical modus operandi, signed Farnsworth this winter to a two-year, $9 million contract. They later signed Juan Cruz for less than that.

    Fixed.

  • Pasqua

    It sounds like an excuse, I know, but that game in which he struck out the side against the Yanks was on the afternoon of the “blinding sun.” All the players said, after the game, that they simply could not see. There were just a ton of K’s in the latter innings of that game.

    In other words, I refuse to credit Kyle Farnsworth with having done anything well.

  • MattG

    When a pitcher is standing on the mound, he is in control. If he does what he’s supposed to, he will get the batter out (Generalization).

    When Kyle Farnsworth is on the mound, it is actually opposite. He will throw a hard but hittable fastball, or a slider that the batter must lay-off. It is the batter that is in control, and if they do what they are suppose to, they will walk or hit the ball hard.

    In this way, Farnsworth’s whole career has been built on getting players to chase his slider. He has no second trick.

    • http://deleted RollingWave

      your not impressived with his headlock and big fist in general?

    • http://deleted RollingWave

      Octavio Dotel says hi

  • Russell NY

    Why don’t the Yankees do what the Red Sox are doing… sign a couple pitchers coming off injury to 1-year deals, have them perform, then pawn them off to other teams for prospects?

    • JohnnyC

      Has that happened yet? You’re assuming they can afford to trade Penny with Dice-K sucking and Smoltz pitching barely acceptably in the minors.

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

      Brady Penny is performing? He had a great start against the Yankees but aside from that, he really hasn’t been any good.

    • radnom

      Despite the ridiculous hype machine, Penny really hasn’t been that fantastic this year. Sure, teams could probably use him, but do you really think the Red Sox are going to get “prospects” for half a year of Brad Penny?

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

        Not just prospects, a Justin Smoak type prospect.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          My sources tell me the Sox are about to trade Penny to the Rangers for Neftali Feliz, Matt Purke, and Tanner Scheppers. Also, if he’s not traded first, I expect Manny Delcarmen to be named an AL All-Star, since he can be a lights out closer for most teams in the league.

          For Diamond Cutters, I’m Peter Gammons, ESPN.

          • Zach

            +1 :)

          • the artist formerly known as (sic)

            Yes indeed, +1

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Well, the Mets are dumb, so, yes, there is a good chance the Red Sox can get “prospects” for half a year of Penny.

        On second though, nevermind, the Mets don’t have “prospects”. Forget I mentioned it.

        • UWS

          *golf clap*

      • Zach

        Ken Rosenthal also said Boston is looking for prospects in return for Saito, he said they had Blalock from Texas but Texas had to pull back once Hamilton got hurt.

        Yeah giving up prospect for a 39year old reliever with a partially torn elbow ligament on a one year deal.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I think that’s more indicative of how much the Rangers have soured on Blalock than anything else. He’s 28 and currently has an OBP of .298.

          That’s not a “prospect”.

          • Zach

            No I agree, his OBP is a career worst, but for Saito??

        • Reggie C.

          Saito > any Yankee reliever not named MO

          • Zach

            right now? Sure, but thats after a 10 inning scoreless streak
            And again 39year old with partially torn elbow ligament on a 1 year deal, you’re going to trade a prospect for that?

    • Jamal G.

      I’m sure they kicked the tires on Brad Penny and Takashi Saito, and if I’m not mistaken, there were reports in the off-season that they definitely kicked the tires on John Smoltz. Also, coming into this season, would you have placed Penny or a 42-year-old pitcher coming off off-season shoulder surgery above Phil Hughes on the depth chart?

      Biased or not, I think the Yankees came in with six better starters than Brad Penny and John Smoltz, all things considered.

      • Mister Delaware

        Boston also has a reputation for a tremendous medical staff. I’m sure that factored in with the older, injured pitchers they were picking up.

        • radnom

          If I remember correctly, this actually played a big part in Smoltz’s decision.

          • JohnnyC

            It was the money. Atlanta actually has a budget. And the medical “staff” was so good they fired their team physician in 2005, even after he used that miraculous mercurochrome cure on Schilling. Apparently, he practiced medicine in the rare moments when he was sober.

            • Zach

              Dont know about the physician but its how they deal with shoulder injuries. So says ESPN, but take that as you will

              • JohnnyC

                Yeah, Curt Schilling’s shoulder is resting comfortably in the Schillings’ palatial mansion in Medfield, MA. Thank you and good night.

                • Zach

                  Matt Clement as well, thats 2 examples, i dont how know many positive examples they have but whatever thats certain peoples opinion, and you cant make a case based on 1 or 2 occurances.

                  Schilling came in on a one year deal overweight and hurt his shoulder in the offseason, they’re going to send him to surgery and waste the 8m and the entire year, they were going to rehab it, didnt work, oh well.

            • radnom
          • Zach

            when a player comes to the Yankees its for the money, when a player takes 3m+ more guaranteed money on a one year deal to go to Boston its because their medical staff

            • Mister Delaware

              Just because the masses use fact-ignorant generalizations to explain everything away doesn’t mean we have to, right? Boston has a very highly regarded medical staff. Its ok for us to say that.

              • Zach

                Didnt say they dont have a highly regarded medical staff, but lets not be naive about the situation. Smoltz already had 3 elbow surgeries for Atlanta and turned out pretty damn good. He felt disrespected from Atlanta and Boston offered him 3m more and 35k a day while hes on the active roster

            • radnom

              How about neither one is entirely correct?

              Other things affect where player sign besides money, be it for the Yankees, Red Sox or any other team.
              Playing time, coaching staff, location, playoff chances all matter, just because money is the biggest factor doesn’t mean it is the only factor.

    • Zach

      If Penny had an era of 5.32 you’d be bitching why teh Yankees gave him money, hell we got Andy and people are saying put him on the pen or DL

  • JohnnyC

    “In this way, Farnsworth’s whole career has been built on getting players to chase his slider. He has no second trick.”

    That, in itself, is no different from the vast majority of relievers. Mo is a one-trick pony too. The fatal difference for Farnsworth is also a common one…he can’t locate his fastball. Object lesson for Joba: you can’t throw your slider every other pitch if you’re not throwing strikes with your fastball. Posada may not be the world’s best defensive catcher but, as a hitter, he knows enough to not swing at sliders he knows are going to end up out of the zone. Other major league hitters do as well.

  • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

    I remember my reaction the Farnsworth/I-Rod swap and thinking it made so much sense and would be just great. The results weren’t what I hoped for, but I guess you could call that trade a wash, no?

    • Zach

      Neither player helped their team but both players had expiring contracts, although the Yankees won the trade on ‘paper’ it was a wash

  • yankeegirl49

    I hate Worthless and the day we traded him might have been one of the happiest in my baseball life!

    • Mister Delaware

      Is that a play on “Kyle”?

    • http://farm1.static.flickr.com/153/413671602_daded72a81_m.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      That’s a tad harsh, don’t you think? The results might not have been there, but Kyle Farnsworth wanted to be and loved being a Yankee (the guy welled up with tears when he was traded) and he tried to make things work to the best of his ability even though he would get mercilessly booed by the fans and ripped by the media.

      • Zach

        I agree, I mean i hated watching Farnsworth pitch, but like you said he loved being a Yankee (didnt realize that til the tears while he was leaving) and wasnt afraid to throw at guys either, but at the same time he didnt perform at expectations, welcome to new york

        • Mister Delaware

          So like a non-productive Bob Gibson? Score.

        • http://farm1.static.flickr.com/153/413671602_daded72a81_m.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Yeah. I just think the personal hatred is a bit unfair. The guy came here, tried to do his job, and kept his mouth shut and apparently still wanted to be here and make it work even after the entire city and media turned against him. I mean, come on. You have to have at least appreciate the effort and desire, even under dire circumstances, of a guy like that. I don’t want him anywhere near my bullpen (unless he’s in the opponent’s bullpen), but I like him.

          • Mister Delaware

            Agreed. I never disliked Farnsworth on a personal level, just professional.

  • EB

    I remember when farnsy cried the day he got traded.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      What a pansy.

      /IronHorse’d

  • http://www.teamnerdrage.com leokitty

    The latest Farnsworth debacle showed that even nature is against him. Crisp wasn’t going to throw anyone out but the ball bouncing off the seagull was amazing.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Agreed. There would have been a better chance of the seagull picking up the ball, flying it over to the catcher and dropping the ball in his mitt, than Crisp throwing out the runner.

      Dave Winfield knows a way to rid Cleveland of seagulls, just ask Toronto.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Involved in a memorable play where the ball hit a bird mid-flight:
        Dave Winfield
        Randy Johnson
        Covelli Crisp

        In the BBWAA Hall of Fame:
        Dave Winfield

        Universally acknowledged as a surefire future Hall of Famer:
        Randy Johnson

        Therefore, now a mortal lock to be a future Hall of Famer:
        Covelli Crisp

        Q.E.D.

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona

          But only one of these men were arrested….David Mark Winfield.

  • RustyJohn

    I do miss having giant, crazy Kyle in the bullpen just in case there’s a melee- he was the Luca Brasi of relievers. I love that clip of him body slamming Paul Wilson…

    http://wrigleyville23.com/2007.....-here.html

    • Zach

      ha ‘good ole country hardball’

  • http://ryanhandt.blogspot.com/ handtius
    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      That was a waste of three minutes and thirty-eight seconds of my life.

      • http://ryanhandt.blogspot.com/ handtius

        glad i could help.

  • JackC

    But he was only good in low leverage melees

  • Bob Forer

    There is no mystery to Farnsworth curve. He was groomed for the the majors as a starter, but after a mere year and a half, he was obviosly lacking in stamina and had one decent pitch–a no-movement one hundred mile fastball–impressive stuff the first tikme through the order, but by the third round of at bats, the average major league hitter was able to adjust and make solid connection.

    Since then, he has proven capable of eighty appearances a season, with a limit of one inning per appearance. He has also proven capable of posting an exceptional era, provided, he is used in non=pressure situations. In other words, he can’t stand the pressure of a closer or a set up man. PUt him in for an inning of middle relief when his team is down by two and no p[ressure, and he typically one-two-thres the order. One problem. Middle innnig relievers are expected to last at least three innings, and are not worth 4.5 mil a year.

    A one innning middle reliever is more luxurious than a pinch runner specialist (eg. Herb Washington of Charlie Finely’s A) With roster limits, he is a luxury no team, espeically a small market team, can afford.

    The only hope is pyscholoigcal rehab. But after years and yearsa of blow saves, he’s probably beyond rehabilitation. Does Mitch Williams a/k/a Wild Thing ring a bell. Once you lose the proverbial edge, its time for a desk job, aka retirement.