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Deconstructing The Process

Browsing Posts tagged Kyle Farnsworth

Yesterday, Clark posted his over/under scenarios for the regular season. Today, I present some questions I have as camp gets set to open. We ll find out some answers almost immediately and others will take a bit longer to sort out.

Hey, the good news is, baseball is in the air. About damn time. On with the questions.

Are Gil Meche and Brian Bannister healthy and ready to make 32 starts for the Royals?

Although both pitchers were felled by Trey Hillman’s Starting Pitcher Chainsaw Massacre, Meche’s troubles began in his first spring training start last year when he reported a stiff back following a one inning outing. If both are healthy and Meche returns to the form he flashed in his first two seasons with the Royals and Bannister can continue to refine his cutter he developed last year, this team has the foundation of a quality starting rotation. As many have pointed out, the CHONE projections have the Royals rotation ranked as the 6th best in baseball.

Take those projections with a grain of salt. Zack Greinke has the highest projected WAR among all pitchers and CHONE is making the assumption that both Meche and Bannister are healthy and at the top of their game. Certainly, the potential is there, but let s not get carried away just yet.

Where will Alberto Callaspo play?

Did you see the Star’s rundown of the 40 man roster on Sunday. Nothing huge, just little capsules on each player along with a one-liner about how they fit on the team. For Chris Getz, the line read, Second base is his job to lose.

Really?

I know Callaspo leaves a lot to be desired with his glove, but this is a team in desperate need for offense, which is something Callaspo provides. If Getz is the starting second baseman, will the Royals slide Callaspo over to DH? I’d be fine with that, but then what happens with Jose Guillen? Honestly, I could care less about what happens with Guillen, but do we really want to hear the inevitable stories about how he’s pissed off? Oh well, this is his last season here, so he may as well go out with some fireworks.

Speaking of Guillen, is there any chance the Royals will get some production out of him in 2010?

I’ve heard various reports about his health and fitness this winter. It’s ranged from good to bad to horrible, so how he’s doing health-wise is anyone s guess.

My hope is, he reports to camp fat and hurt and the Royals decide to immediately end the Guillen era and give him his unconditional release. Hey, we’re out $12 million for 2010 anyway.

Has anyone heard if the Royals found someone to play the part of Sluggerrrr? Maybe the Royals can get their money s worth by having Guillen don the costume. That would be great, but can you imagine the liability when he s performing at a birthday party, drops a handful of f-bombs and then tears his groin while shooting hot dogs?

Is Billy Butler still motivated?

The knock on Butler prior to last season was he lacked a certain amount of maturity that would push him to realize his potential. All he did to dispel that notion was to work all winter on his defense and report to camp in excellent shape.

My question then, did he do something similar this off season? Sometimes, success creates a comfort level and some athletes aren’t able (or willing) to push themselves to maintain that success.

I m not saying Butler is a candidate for regression. There s no evidence he decided to take the winter off and rest on his laurels. I m just saying I hope he’s still working just as hard as he worked last year. I just get the feeling he could have a monster year if he put in the proper work this winter.

Who will set-up Soria?

The Dayton Moore era has been marked with bullpen uncertainty almost since day one. Sometimes, it all works out like it did in 2008. Other times not so much, like last year. Juan Cruz will be looking to bounce back but with Kyle Farnsworth and Robinson Tejeda auditioning for a starting role, there aren t many known commodities currently residing in the back of the bullpen.

(Hopefully the Royals understand Farnsworth isn’t an option to be a set-up man. I fear when it becomes apparent he can t start, the Royals will undoubtedly try him in this role once again.)

Will Alex Gordon be ready for the season?

Last year was supposed to be his breakout year, but now like his free agency, it s been delayed a season.

With newly acquired third baseman Josh Fields in the fold, is it possible the Royals picked him up to apply some pressure to Gordon? The parallels between the two are interesting in that both were highly touted prospects coming out of college and have yet to come close to that potential in the majors. Fields represents a true alternative should Gordon once again falter (through injury or poor performance.) That s something the Royals have never really had at third. Certainly, Teahen could have been that but during his last three years with the team, his services were needed at other positions. This year, Fields doesn’t really fit anywhere on this team.

I think it would be super cool if they threw the third base job wide open. Fields versus Gordon, may the best man win. It’s not like your going to piss Gordon off more than you already have. Besides, competition is healthy. That alone would make spring training infinitely more interesting.

There you go. A few questions for you to ponder as the equipment trucks and players roll into Surprise to get ready for the season.

There’s been so little noise coming from the front offices of the Royals that I thought we dodged a bullet. Normally, it’s around this time where the brain trust finds some scrap-heap starter (Brett Tomko, Sidney Ponson and my personal favorite Joe Mays) and slots them in the back of the rotation.

Yeah, it’s the number five starter on a last place team, so it’s not like it s a huge deal. Although I suppose it’s just kind of soul crushing when you split your season tickets and get a handful of Ponson starts while you are shut out on Greinke.

Anyway, I just figured the Royals would stick with their less than fab five (Greinke, Meche, Bannister, Davies and Hochevar) and that would be that. Kind of boring, but it’s probably the best we can do.

But wait -  It looks like the Royals have a sense of humor.

Start Him Up: Farnsworth To Get A Shot
is the headline of the article on Royals.com that gently breaks the news: Kyle Farnsworth will go to spring training with the opportunity to open the season in the rotation.

Seriously, was the Denkinger call so horrible that we re still paying the baseball gods over 25 years later?

It’s spring training, so it’s still a little early to get bent about this. I’d give it a 45% chance of Farnsworth actually starting. It s that high only because this is the Royals we’re talking about. Farnsworth will go to Surprise needing to get work to get prepared for the upcoming season. It doesn’t matter if that work comes in the first inning or the ninth inning while the club is in Arizona. Innings are irrelevant in the spring. (Early, at least. It’s probably a good idea to play the final week of the Cactus schedule with some kind of regular season plan in mind.)

But hang on to your hat. While I don’t like the idea of moving Farnsworth to the rotation, it’s an interesting move to ponder.

The reasoning behind the push to the rotation has to do with Farnsworth’s development of a third pitch – a two seam fastball that works as a cut fastball. It’s a pitch he began playing with early in 2008 when he was with the Yankees. He didn’t follow up with it at the time for whatever reason, but brought it out of mothballs in the middle of last season.

The cutter is basically a hybrid of his fastball and his slider. It’s lateral movement is about half that of his slider, and it of course features a downward tilt. His average cutter last summer was clocked at 89.5 mph which is right between his fastball (96 mph) and his slider (85 mph).

The result of his new pitch was a ground ball to fly ball ratio that trended to the ground ball side for the first time since 2005. For his career, his GB/FB ratio is 0.94. Last year, it was 1.36. And his air out to ground out ratio was 0.84. Again, that was the closest to even as he s been since 05. It s still off from the major league average of 1.04 AO/GO, but it’s a start.

The extra ground balls were nice, but he was still giving up line drives at a high 20% rate and his batting average on balls in play was a lofty .374. The benefit of the cutter for Farnsworth was it actually helped limit the damage he could have caused by keeping the ball in the park. Am I crazy saying this? I don’t think so. In his previous two seasons before coming to KC, Farnsworth allowed a total of 24 home runs in 120 innings, a home run rate of 1.8 HR/9. Last year, he allowed a total of three home runs in 37 innings for a home run rate of 0.7 HR/9. That s pretty huge.

(Time for a break. Of course two of his three home runs – the three run shot to Thome in the opener and the moon shot to Young in Texas that same month – were absolute gut punches. My theory is that Farnsworth can’t handle the pressure of the late inning situation with the game on the line. The fastball tends to get a little more straight as it were. And elevated. A lot. More on pressure in a few paragraphs.)

Let s take a moment to check out his evolution over the last three years.

FarnsworthRatio

So it’s not altogether crazy that Farnsworth be looked at as a starter. He s developed a third pitch and began to accumulate more ground balls and kept the ball in the park which is a key component of avoiding the big inning.

Still, it’s a bad idea.

Farnsworth will be 34 next year and has spent the last 10 years of his career exclusively in the bullpen. Can you think of any other pitcher who has gone from bullpen to the rotation with a similar story? I can t. Usually, it’s a one way road in the other direction.

As such, the most innings he s thrown in a season since 2000 is 82. And that was back in 2001. In the last five years, he s averaged 58 innings per season. Of course, the Royals would make the effort to stretch him out, but we re talking about an arm that hasn t been stretched out for over a decade. You have to wonder if it has any elasticity left.

And finally, I have come to believe that Farnsworth can be an asset to this team. With the caveat if used properly. Given the fact that he folds like a card table under pressure, he belongs in the sixth and seventh inning. Maybe the eighth if the lead is large enough. Hell, I wouldn’t mind him in the ninth if you have a lead of six or more runs. I mocked his scoreless run in the middle of the season because it came exclusively in low leverage situations, but there is some value in keeping runners off the scoreboard no matter the situation. Farnsworth was quality for a stretch but then the Royals got carried away and inserted him in a couple of tight situations in the late innings and all hell broke loose.

His high leverage struggles as a reliever mean we have to ask how he would do as a starter when the pressure got cranked up a notch or two. With runners on first and third and one out in a tie game in the fourth inning still has less leverage than the same situation in the ninth. We have a pretty good idea what would happen in the ninth. We need to know what would happen in the fourth. That’s the important question.

I think he’d spit the bit no matter what. Farnsworth is best taken in low doses three outs at a time when the game isn’t on the line. Limit the damage he can do and he could still provide some of that value.

He belongs in the pen. After all these years, it’s his home. And he may still be of some value to the Royals as a reliever.

This morning, I am going to run through a quick exercise in constructing the Royals’ twenty-five man roster for the coming season. My guess is that almost everyone who reads any Royals’ blog has already done this in one form or another, but I have serious doubts that the Royals’ front office has.

Okay, sure, we know that is total sarcasm, but seriously I think the Royals have a firm idea on the 40 man roster, but only a vague ‘things will work themselves out’ idea as to the 25 they will break camp with. You can make an argument that this is the perfect way to go into spring training and I would generally agree, but I do wonder if a ‘small budget’ club like the Royals can assemble and pay for 30+ guys to compete for their 25 spots?

The catching position is pretty simple: Jason Kendall starts, Brayan Pena watches. The hope is that Kendall is an upgrade defensively and in handling the pitchers, while not just destroying you at the plate. If he can get on base at even a .340 clip, throw runners out and get along with Greinke and Meche, he might be tolerable. In Pena, the Royals have a switch-hitter who might log some time at DH. I wish the team had given Pena two months of everyday duty last year to find out if he really is THAT bad behind the plate, but that ship has sailed. Manny Pina, acquired from Texas last year, is the next in line, but his bat is not ready for the bigs (and may never be). He is, should everything go to hell, probably the best defensive catcher in the organization. At any rate, it’s Kendall and Pean: that’s two.

The corner infield positions are pretty clear: Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. What happens after that is a mystery. The Royals acquired Josh Fields as part of the Mark Teahen trade, making rumblings about Fields playing a corner outfield spot, but that has gone by the wayside with the signings of Podsednik and Ankiel. Out of options, Fields will be on the 25 man roster come April, likely as the backup third baseman and part-time designated hitter. That’s three more guys, for a total of five.

We will jump out to the outfield at this point. I shudder to think how the team is going to actually arrange David DeJesus, Rick Ankeil and Scott Podsednik defensively, but we all know that those will be the three outfielders and that they will play everyday. The signing of Ankiel brought out the semi-public announcement that Jose Guillen would be the club’s primary designated hitter – something Jose probably has not yet heard and won’t like when he does. While the ‘just cut him’ plan of action is certainly appealing and maybe even logical, it is hard to see the Royals doing so. There’s four players, four veterans mind you, that will be on the team in April, bringing us to a total of nine on our roster.

Okay, middle infield will be…deep breathe…Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop and somebody else. Of course, the Teahen trade also brought Chris Getz over and the expectation is that he will be an upgrade defensively at second over Alberto Callaspo. However, with Guillen moving to DH (not to mention Fields), playing Getz at second leaves few places for Callaspo to play. As much as I hate watching Alberto field, I do love watching him hit. The other glaring problem is that keeping Betancourt, Getz and Callaspo leaves no room for Willie Bloomquist. We all know that’s not going to happen (besides, Willie is the only one who can play short). The wild card in this equation is Mike Aviles. My guess is that Aviles will not be ready at the start of the season and will open the year on the disabled list.

We will assume that the Royals will open the year with a 12 man pitching staff or move to that sooner rather than later. Although he has options left, it is hard for me to believe Dayton Moore traded Mark Teahen for a bench player and a guy who is going to play in Omaha. That leaves Getz on the roster, with Callaspo and Bloomquist who, for all his faults, can fill the role of both fourth outfielder and utility infielder. With Betancourt, that makes four for a total of thirteen.

That means Brian Anderson, all $700,000 of him, is in AAA and Mitch Maier, out of options, might be somewhere else come April. The schedule might allow the team to open with eleven pitchers, so it could be Mitch and the organization a couple of weeks to sort out what to do, but by the end of April, barring a trade or simply cutting bait with Guillen, Mitch will be off the Royals’ big league roster.

Now, onto the pitching staff. The starting rotation right now will be Greinke, Meche, Bannister, Hochevar and either Kyle Davies or Robinson Tejeda. There are rumblings about the Royals fishing for a veteran, which would likely be the end of Davies and push Tejeda back to the pen. Right now, though, my money is on Tejeda as the number five starter. At any rate, that’s five guys, so we are up to eighteen total, now.

The bullpen will have Joakim Soria and Juan Cruz at the backend, with Kyle Farnsworth available for blow-out work (what a fine use of funds, by the way). Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna is all but guaranteed a spot, which fills four of the seven spots.

I would be pretty amazed if veteran journeyman Matt Herges does not get a spot. Just a hunch, but I think he will trade it that number 77 for a real baseball number by April. I am also hoping beyond all hope that the Royals give and Carlos Rosa earns a spot in the bullpen this year. Rosa, performing as I hope he might, is the guy who makes what Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth do irrelevant.

That leaves one final spot (assuming Tejeda is the fifth starter) up for grabs between Ramon Colon, Victor Marte, Dusty Hughes and all the non-roster invitees. Throw Herges into this mix if you want and say this group is fighting for two roster spots. It doesn’t much matter how it ends up, but that’s seven relievers, twelve pitchers and a 25 man roster.

Now, in reading all this, how likely do you think it is that all of Chris Getz, Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo break camp with the Royals? You could throw David DeJesus into that mix as well as he is likely the most tradable of all the Royals’ position players. Barring trades or another free agent signing, I would put pretty good money on the 25 players outlined above.

Part of me is pretty certain Dayton Moore has two more moves on his agenda that will make the real 25 man roster different from the above. All of me is hoping that is the case.

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