Thursday, December 01, 2005

Kyle's Mom Is A Bitch

When I clicked over to my friends at Replacement Level Tuesday night, there was a link to a site dedicated to Yankees news (nyynews.com) that was reporting (“this is not a rumor!” the site exclaimed) the Yankees had come to terms with reliever Kyle Farnsworth. This obviously led to me clicking through ESPN.com and FoxSports.com, but to no avail. Apparently the guys at this site are more connected than anyone in the print media (or are just making a bold statement on an issue they feel will come to fruition, in order to boost street cred).

(Update: more sources are rolling in on the issue, but over 24 hours after this was posted on nyynews. I still think it was just a good guess.)

At first, I was enthralled with this news, even rushing to boast to my buddy Jon about the new acquisition. Of course, I inundated him with Farnsworth’s defensive independent statistics from last year, which are all astounding. Yet, an article over at Baseball Prospectus calmed me a bit on young Kyle.

It’s not that Joe Sheehan’s article was groundbreaking, but it simply reminded me that judging a player in his contract year is a bad habit. I’ve been on the record saying the same thing about Bengie Molina, that it is suspect that his first solid year came 1) when he was 30 and 2) in a year he was playing for a new contract.

After perusing the news today and seeing nothing other than “Yanks intensify talks with Farnsworth, Gordon” in the headlines, I decided to do my duty (heh, duty) and try to put this Farnsworth situation in perspective. Let’s start at the beginning, 1999, when he was called up as a starter for the Chicago Cubs.

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
130.05794.8512.093.601.941.355.05


Not exactly promising. Of course, he was a 23-year-old rookie, but even so his numbers didn’t look like those of a future star. So, disenchanted, the Cubbies shipped him off to the bullpen in 2000.

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
77.03718.6519.955.841.641.486.43


Some modest improvement there, though his ERA did not reflect it. True, his move to the bullpen provided a smaller sample size, but I doubt that he was averaging 8.65 strikeouts per nine at any point in 1999. It would appear that Farnsworth began rearing back and hurling the ball with all his might in 2000, since strikeouts weren’t the only category in which he saw an increase. His walks per nine rose by 62 percent to go along with his 56 percent hike in strikeouts per nine. Notice the subtle hike in percentage of batters faced that he struck out. That will come into play later. But for now, Farnsworth’s breakout year in 2001:

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
82.033911.7431.563.180.883.692.74


Talk about going from mediocre to superstar. The first indication of Farnsworth’s success: less batters faced over more innings pitched than 2000. He saw drastic hikes in his strikeouts per nine and percentage of batters stuck out, as well as dips in his walks and home runs allowed, which all translated to a nifty 2.74 ERA. It seemed, for the moment, that he had solved his control problems, which led to the boost in the rest of his statistics.

But what kind of story would this be if Farnsworth didn’t get injured in 2002?

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
46.22138.8721.604.631.731.927.32


During this season, his numbers regressed to resemble his 2000 marks, with slight but negligible improvements in strikeouts and walks (and therefore the ratio), but with more home runs allowed, leading to a higher ERA. The easy assessment was that 2001 was a fluke. A more detrimental view was that his injury set back his career considerably. But what could the Cubbies do but give him his normal allotment of innings in 2003?

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
76.331210.8529.494.250.712.563.30


If the kid had a decent head on his shoulders, this would have convinced me he was in it for the long haul. A full year in reliever’s terms, Farnsworth once again showed improvement in every category over the previous year. While this was no 2001, 2003 certainly was a bright spot in his career, most noticeably in his home runs per nine, which dropped nearly one per nine. His walk total was still suspect, but it constituted an improvement over 2002.

Poised for another breakout year in 2004, Farnsworth would be his own undoing. Yes, I’m referring to his stint on the DL, which was caused by his kicking of an electric fan. S-m-r-t move, Kyle, right up there with Lew Ford trying to iron a shirt that he was wearing. Despite this bout with his own psyche, Farnsworth didn’t show regression to the degree he did in 2002.

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
66.729810.5226.174.451.352.364.47


See, slightly worse than 2003. Really, it could have easily been chalked up to the injury, had the injury not been self-inflicted off the diamond. But apparently the Cubs had enough, sending him to Detroit (and anyone who has seen Kentucky Fried Movie should be giggling right now) for three nobodies. He didn’t pitch badly for Detroit, but seeing that they were out of the race, they dealt him to the needier Braves to recoup some of the prospects they lost in acquiring him. His 2005 sheet, combined:

IPBFPK/9K%BB/9HR/9K/BBERA
70.027711.1931.413.470.643.222.19


And here he is, looking like 2001 again. That 2005 was his walk year makes him suspect, but it’s not like this year was out of the blue. He was less effective in years tainted by injury, but showed improvement in years he stayed healthy.

Should he stay healthy in 2006, I would imagine his numbers would resemble those from 2003. As we’ve all learned over the years, expecting superstar performances from new acquisitions just isn’t realistic. Now, I know that his 2003 numbers don’t warrant nearly $6 million per season, but remember, there’s always the potential down the line for him to put up a monstrous season again, and maybe that will come after Mo retires and the team really needs it.

His mental stability is a factor, but it was with Paul O’Neill as well. Problem is, there is no way for unconnected people like you and me to figure out where his problems stem from. Is it that he just wants to perform well and help his team like O’Neill, or is it because he’s a little crybaby like Kevin Brown? Only time can tell, and considering the current market, I have to say that the Farnsworth signing makes more sense than the Ryan signing.

Or maybe that’s just my Yankees bias.