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Danny Farquhar has found swing and miss stuff

Will he be a key piece of the 2017 bullpen?

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Farquhar came to the Rays from Seattle as a secondary piece in the Brad Miller - Nathan Karns trade. He was targeted as a potential rebound candidate who would hopefully strengthen a Rays bullpen that could charitably be described as a question mark after trading away Jake McGee and, in spring training, losing Brad Boxberger to injury.

The Rays saw a young guy who had enjoyed previous success at the back end of the bullpen as he had put up a 3.34 ERA and 2.42 FIP over 126.2 innings in 2013 and 2014. He had picked up 17 saves and struck out 30.9% of batters and walked 8.5% over that stretch.

His first two limited runs in the Rays bullpen, however, weren’t successful. He allowed eight earned runs over 10.2 innings. His pitches were getting hit hard out of the park as he allowed six homers in that short run. He wasn’t striking many batters out with a 20.0% rate. The only positive indicator was his low walk rate, which was at 6.0%.

On August 6, Enny Romero went on the disabled list and Farquhar was recalled. Since then he has pitched 6.2 effective innings. He has a 2.70 ERA and 0.45 FIP. He’s struck out 42.9% and walked 3.6% of batters he’s faced. In particular his last three outings have been fantastic as he’s retired all nine batters while striking out seven.

In his first run Farquhar threw 210 pitches. He only managed 25 swinging strikes for an 11.9% swinging strike rate. Since his return he has thrown 129 pitches and gotten 24 whiffs for an 18.6% swinging strike rate. His fastball (8 of 45, 17.8%) and change-up (15 of 43, 34.9%) have been doing the heavy lifting.

This year Farquhar has significantly changed his pitch usage. He used to rely on his cutter as his primary pitch that he threw 53% of the time while with the Mariners. He had always gotten good results with his change-up but he only threw it 8% of the time against left handed hitters.

Against left handed batters since his return he has used the changeup 44% of the time and it is his go-to pitch when ahead. His cutter comes in at number two with 31% usage and his fastball is his third pitch at 21%.

Against right handed batters he has relied on his four seamer, which he’s thrown 43% of the time. The change-up comes in second at 27% followed by curve, 16%, and cutter, 12%.

Farquhar has raised his vertical release point since his first two stints with the Rays and is back to roughly the same 5.9 feet he used to much success in his first two full seasons with the Mariners.

It’s a very small sample, but it’s something in the right direction. Strikeout rates for pitchers stabilize around 70 plate appearances so we’re still a ways away from seeing whether Danny Farquhar has turned the corner.

If he continues on this trajectory he could be a key high-leverage reliever moving forward.