Kyle Farnsworth and The Intimidation Factor | The Process Report

Kyle Farnsworth and The Intimidation Factor

The Rays made the Kyle Farnsworth signing official today by sending out a press release. Within the release is this quote:

“Kyle brings not only experience, but also an intimidation factor that will help our entire bullpen,” said Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. “As he’s matured as a pitcher, his arsenal has continued to evolve, and he has the stuff to get crucial outs for us in the AL East.”

The intimidation factor is an interesting topic with Farnsworth and one that brings out humor and curiosity alike. Since breaking into the majors, 19 pitches have hit Evan Longoria. That is the 58th most in baseball over that time span and tied with how many struck Jason Bartlett. Despite the numbers, it does feel like Longoria has a fair share of narrow escapes, perhaps more so than any other player does on the team. You hate to accuse teams of throwing at a player or headhunting, but if signing Farnsworth is a way to limit such activity, then he should be welcomed.

Luckily, Farnsworth has switched teams so many times that tracking changes in a WOWY (With Or Without You) format is relatively easy. In somewhat of an oddity, Farnsworth has been involved in three July 30th or July 31st trades. I do not know how rare that is, but I do know it is not that common. Nevertheless, the results are in chart form below and show an unusual trend: teams experience fewer hit by pitches once Farnsworth leaves and more hit by pitches when he joins.

That could simply be random fluctuation, although that’s some well-timed variance to follow Farnsworth around so closely. I decided to see how teams Farnsworth joins or leaves via free agency fare. Because rosters are so fluid at any point in time and the offseason means a high turnover rate, I am hesitant to put too much stock into these numbers:

Naturally, they show the opposite effect. When Farnsworth joins, their hit by pitch rates either remain static or plummet, albeit not by much. Could it be that teams only fear Farnsworth when he signs a new contract? Dubious at best. If there is an intimidation factor – and there may be one – it doesn’t appear quantitatively, or at least not in the form of fewer plunked batsmen. However, it does show up in other more nuanced metrics.

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