Kyle Farnsworth, Comparisons, & the Rays Closing Situation | The Process Report

Kyle Farnsworth, Comparisons, & the Rays Closing Situation

According to our friend Jason Collette, Andrew Friedman said the following in a Sirius/XM radio interview when speaking about the closer’s role going into the season: “based on past experience & all, it’s tough not to see (Kyle) Farnsworth getting a lot of 9th inning chances early on.”  To which another e-buddy of the Process Report, Jay Jaffe, quickly responded with “easy to see, tough to watch.” As a Yankee follower, Jaffe has witnessed the bad side to Farnsworth up close.

Of course, a lot of things can change between now and opening day. However, let’s say the Rays do not make a substantial pick-up in the bullpen and roll with the Farns as first closing option of the season. How concerned should we be?

Though Jaffe is correct to have nightmares about Farnsworth in a Yankee uniform, things have changed since the pitcher’s days in the Bronx. Here is what R.J. wrote about him after signing with Tampa Bay…

His woeful time with the New York Yankees is obviously concerning, but his other time in the American League – albeit the American League Central – suggests that he is not someone who only thrives in a National League environment. Tropicana Field’s park factors suggest it is a friendly place for pitchers and children alike, which should only help Farnsworth out.

Baseball Info Solutions’ pitch data suggests the upswing in results coincides with the addition of a cutter to Farnsworth’s repertoire. Correlation does not equal causation and there is a chance Farnsworth threw the cutter all along, but classification issues labeled the pitches as sliders. Still, one cannot help but wonder how the addition of a cutter changed the dynamics of Farnsworth’s arsenal.

Dave Cameron of compared Farnsworth to Bobby Jenks earlier this year; however, there is another comparison that also fits which might ease the concerns of some. Taking names and reputation out of it, here are some raw numbers to compare.

  Games Innings K/9 BB/9 HR/9
A 101 102 9.09 2.91 0.62
B 105 101 9.98 5.08 0.98


Overall, each pitcher earned an ERA+ of 112 over the past two seasons. Pitcher B gets more strikeouts, but allows more walks and home runs. Without knowing who which line belongs to which, I’ll let you know a little secret. One is Kyle Farnsworth. The other is Kerry Wood. Survey 10,000 people in the Tampa Bay area on whom they would want to see closing games for the Rays and it would be nearly unanimous for Wood.  Not because of numbers, but because of his name.

If you were going in reputation alone, then Farnsworth would be a good choice for as Player B, however, he is not. Wood has given up more than two walks per nine innings than Farnsworth and allowed more home runs (11 to 7). Farnsworth even holds the better ERA; however, Wood has 28 saves over the two years and Farnsworth has none.

Of course, people will say numbers are great, but it is about having “it.” Maybe Kerry Wood has “it” and Farnsworth doesn’t. That said, according to his numbers by situation, Farnsworth is roughly the same pitcher in any leverage situation and does the same against good and bad teams.

Wood signed a one-year sweetheart deal with the Cubs which includes a broadcasting contract after he retires, so this really isn’t a “who would you rather have” type of comparison. The fact is, if we strip away name and perception, Farnsworth has been as good as Wood or even Jenks over the past few years despite his flawed past. We may not know if he has the mentality of a closer, but finding out if he does might not be as scary as you think.


  1. I.Welsh-Art wrote:

    I really like the blind box comparison there. It’s kind of like the gold glove fiasco with Jeter, you go for the name not the reputation. The Rays have a history of letting the past be the past and so far it has worked pretty well. The veteran status he has and bringing that to a bullpen with a bunch of young guys certainty adds to his value. Plus, he could turn them all into a bunch of Tysons.

    • Tommy Rancel wrote:

      I also agree with the notion of using your best reliever in the most crutial situation regardless of the inning. If McGee or Russell is truly our fireman they can get the toughest outs in the 7th or 8th innings then Farnsworth comes in the 9th in a bases empty situation.

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