Can Kyle Farnsworth Return to Form? | The Process Report

Can Kyle Farnsworth Return to Form?

Maybe it’s not time to quit on Kyle Farnsworth just yet.

Farnsworth struggled in April. He allowed 11 of his 25 batters faced to reach base and did so without striking out a soul. His numbers in May haven’t been much better, save for improving strikeout and walk rates. But beyond the obvious misery there were two underlying numbers fingered for Farnsworth’s quick descent into Troy Percival territory: 1) fastball velocity and 2) whiff rate.

Those numbers were uncharacteristically low in April, but both have rebounded in May. Although Farnsworth isn’t topping out around 100 mph anymore, he has enough gas to live comfortably. Conversely, Farnsworth is missing more bats in May than he did in his previous two seasons with the Rays:

Month FB MPH Average (Max) Whiff Rate
April 90.5 (94.2) 9.7%
May 92.7 (96.0) 27.3%
2011-2012 93.7 (99.8) 23.9%

Of course these are just two numbers. As Theo Epstein said in late April, “In the information age, things that are precisely measured are rewarded disproportionally relative to impact.” Velocity doesn’t mean a whole lot if the pitch is poorly located and straight.┬áMissing bats is a good thing, too, though if a pitcher is making mistakes over the plate in between whiffs then he’s unlikely to have the success implied by his contact rate.

These last two times out Farnsworth has showed glimpses of being okay. On Friday night he hit targets on both sides of the plate while keeping the ball down and mixing speeds. The time before that, on Wednesday, he allowed the game-winning hit. But it wasn’t entirely Farnsworth’s fault. Cesar Ramos put him in a tough spot by walking Mark DeRosa. Even the pitch Jose Bautista hit wasn’t a poor pitch. Argue about whether Farnsworth should’ve thrown something other than a fastball if you want, but how often does a pitcher get burned by putting a ball in this spot:

farnsworthbautista

Admittedly this is searching for a light in a dark cavern. One clean sheet doesn’t mean a whole lot. In fact the last time Farnsworth recorded a perfect inning he followed it up with a few dismal appearances. But if Farnsworth continues to falter it won’t be because of his velocity or an inability to miss bats. It’ll be because of location and/or movement. With any luck he’ll salvage what so far has been a poor third year with the Rays.

Stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info

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