After a strong performance as the Mariners closer in 2012, Tom Wilhelmsen opened the 2013 season in that same role for the Seattlers. Unfortunately, things didn’t go nearly as well this time around. After entering the month of June having allowed just 2 runs over 24.0 innings, it all unraveled from there. He battled control problems, issuing 9 walks in 10.2 innings, and lost his closer job temporarily. He regained his job in early July, but then lost it again for good a month later, before being demoted to Triple-A. With the team currently without their incumbent closer, a new man of the bullpen had to be anointed. Enter Danny Farquhar, otherwise known as “Lord” Farquhar, a nickname I lovingly assigned him.
— Mike Podhorzer (@MikePodhorzer) August 4, 2013
Farquhar recorded his first save on Aug 3 and proceeded to save 15 more games over the remaining two months of the season, while blowing just 2. While on the surface his 4.20 ERA doesn’t impress, what’s beneath certainly does.
But before diving into his skill set, let’s look back at where he came from. The term journeyman describes him perfectly, as the 26-year-old is now with his fifth organization since making his professional debut in 2008. He has never started a game professionally and has nearly always posted excellent strikeout rates, while struggling with his control at times. It’s quite interesting, or perhaps surprising, that his strikeout ability wasn’t exciting enough for any organization to hold onto him previously or at least give him a shot in the Majors. The Mariners finally did and have to be thrilled about their decision.
As alluded to above, Farquhar possesses serious strikeout ability. He features a fastball that averaged 94.5 mph, to go along with a cutter and curve ball. He threw the cutter nearly half the time, but it doesn’t appear to be that much better than average. The pitch generated a SwStk% only a smidgen above our benchmark, while inducing grounders at exactly that benchmark rate.
What really drove his strikeout rate was a killer curve ball. The pitch enjoyed a SwStk% of over 25%, versus a benchmark of just about 11%, which made it quite the weapon. His fastball was also excellent, but he didn’t throw it very often.
As is often the case with pitchers who post high strikeout rates, control could sometimes be problematic for Farquhar. Though his walk rate was respectable enough given his spectacular strikeout rate, he pumped in first pitch strikes only about 55% of the time. The Mariners already had to deal with a closer struggling with his control, so the last thing they are going to want (or any team for that matter) is to watch it all happen again with their stopper putting the tying or winning run on base via the free pass.
So the potential for control issues means Farquhar could be a roller coaster ride, but with a lot more good than bad. Patience will be the key and hopefully new manager Lloyd McLendon will give him a long leash, whereby a couple of bad outings that total a whopping three innings won’t cause him to lose his job.
I mentioned earlier that Farquhar’s underlying skills were much better than his 4.20 ERA would indicate. Although he benefited from a low HR/FB rate of about 5%, he was plagued by a .336 BABIP and inability to strand runners. Based on his inflated line drive rate, that BABIP was likely deserved. But over small samples, LD% is quite fluky, so it would make sense to ignore it and project a more normal batted ball mix. So although Farquhar’s ERA probably shouldn’t have been as low as the 2.30 mark SIERA calculated because of the mostly deserved high BABIP, it’s clear he was much better than a 4.00+ mark.
The Mariners have been surprisingly linked to free agent relief pitchers who, if signed, would most certainly take over the team’s closer role. That’s unfortunate as it doesn’t convey much faith that Farquhar could be the man over a full season. I think he absolutely could and if he does enter the season with the job, makes for exactly the type of cheaper closer I like targeting.
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