Danny Farquhar’s Place In History
There’s been a growing emphasis on strikeouts around baseball. It’s interesting when you examine the reasons why — teams are less concerned with hitters striking out, but more concerned with pitchers striking hitters out. Strikeouts are simply more important for pitchers, because it’s a lot harder for a guy to reach base on a strikeout than it is for him to reach base on a non-strikeout, provided Miguel Olivo isn’t catching, and if you let hitters put the ball in play, you have only so much control over the results. Pitchers who don’t get strikeouts allow more baserunners. Pitchers who allow more baserunners allow more runs. Pitchers who allow more runs become high school pitching coaches and real estate agents.
Of course strikeouts aren’t everything, and maybe analysts today give them a little too much weight. There are other ways that a pitcher can succeed, and perhaps we can all be a little too dismissive. But you just can’t do anything better than strike a hitter out. So much of the time, we’re trying to figure out how players are going to perform in the future. There’s no better single indicator of future success for a pitcher than strikeout ability. Hits might have something to do with a pitcher’s talent. Home runs might have something to do with a pitcher’s talent. Strikeouts have a lot to do with a pitcher’s talent, so it’s easier to overlook a guy having allowed too many hits than a guy having recorded too few whiffs. Most of the time, you want to follow the strikeouts. The guys with the strikeouts will be where the magic happens.
Danny Farquhar used to be kind of annoying. Danny Farquhar used to be a nobody, then he used to be kind of annoying, when he was piling up the strikeouts and running an ERA in the 7s. Farquhar hasn’t allowed a run since July 19, but through that point, he’d allowed a .298 average and 22 runs in 17 games. Whenever you see that kind of outlier performance, people are hasty to suggest that maybe “the rules just don’t apply to this guy.” There are most certainly guys to whom the rules don’t quite apply, but we can’t identify them after two dozen innings. Farquhar had strikeouts and little success. Now he has strikeouts and great success, having taken over for Tom Wilhelmsen, and he’s beginning to look like he really is one of baseball’s better relievers.
Yeah, I know relievers burn quick and burn bright. For example, Tom Wilhelmsen the year before he got replaced by Danny Farquhar. But I want to show you a table. Here are the top individual single-season strikeout rates for pitchers in Mariners franchise history:
The difference between first place and second place is about 2.9 percentage points. The difference between second place and 17th place is about 2.9 percentage points. It’s Farquhar, then it’s everyone else, and we remember 2006 JJ Putz as having been one of the Mariners’ most dominant relievers ever. Putz had the heat and the splitter. Farquhar has the cutter and the curve. He doesn’t have the same music or the same intensity, but he’s been even better at making batters just turn right around.
As noted before, strikeout rates have been on the rise. When Randy did what he did in 1995, the league-average strikeout rate was just over 15%. Right now, the league-average strikeout rate is creeping up on 20%. Farquhar’s pitching at a time when strikeouts are easier to come by, and of course there’s also a difference between relieving and starting. One notes that the same table includes this year’s Oliver Perez and this year’s Charlie Furbush. If I wanted to make an adjustment for the sake of fairness, Farquhar would slip from the top position, but we don’t need to adjust everything, and we can just be happy that there’s a way in which Danny Farquhar compares to Randy Johnson. We’re allowed to be content knowing simply that Danny Farquhar currently has the Mariners’ highest single-season strikeout rate ever.
And he’s 26, and he’s cheap and under team control forever, and he’s good against both lefties and righties, and he was a pick-up no one thought of at the time. I wasn’t alone when I figured the Mariners just dumped Ichiro on the Yankees for nothing, basically to give him an opportunity to win. I didn’t think about D.J. Mitchell or Danny Farquhar until…I don’t even know. Spring training? And I thought of Mitchell first. But Jack Zduriencik noted that Farquhar had picked up a cutter. Zduriencik thought he might be getting some value back, and now a year later Farquhar is closing, effectively, after the Mariners’ intended closer decided to be non-confrontational with the strike zone. This helps cancel out the Yankees turning Shawn Kelley into a strikeout machine (lookit). The Mariners did squeeze something out of the Ichiro trade, and though you never want to bet on any reliever for long, maybe Farquhar closes for a few years. Maybe he settles in as a recognizable part of the team. Maybe he gets a role in a commercial. Jack Zduriencik turned Steve Delabar into Eric Thames. He also turned contract-year Ichiro into Danny Farquhar. You have to acknowledge the wins, if you’re going to complain about the losses.
Yesterday in Tampa Bay, Evan Longoria almost tied the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. For Farquhar, that would’ve been a rather unpleasant blown save. On the other hand, Longoria was behind 0-and-2, and Farquhar hit his spot, and there were two outs because the first two batters went down on strikes. Maybe Farquhar got a little bit lucky. He deserves it. And if he keeps pitching like this, there won’t be that much room for luck to begin with.