Last winter Danny Farquhar was a minor piece of the Nathan-Karns-for-Brad-Miller trade with the Seattle Mariners.
Farquhar had seen a successful run in 2013 and 2014 in the backend of the Mariners bullpen. He picked up 17 saves while throwing 126.2 innings of 3.34 ERA and 2.42 FIP baseball, but things fell apart in 2015. The Rays picked up the reliever as a bounce back target after a tough 2015 that saw his ERA spike to 5.12 with his FIP increasing to 4.60.
Farquhar’s 2016 was split by two differing periods of effectiveness. He made the opening day roster, but was up and down for the first half where he pitched 10.2 innings with a 6.75 ERA and 9.71 FIP. He was getting lit up as he allowed six homers in a very short period of time.
On August 3 Farquhar was called up and stayed with the major club for the remainder of the season. He was very effective. He threw 24.2 innings of 1.47 ERA and 3.11 FIP. He led the bullpen in ERA and FIP barely edging out Alex Colome in both categories in the second half. His strikeouts spiked to 33.3% of batters faced, but the walks also shot way up to 11.1% of batters faced. The massive difference was only two homers allowed over 24.2 innings.
Three weeks into his second half resurgence I wrote about Farquhar’s new reliance on his whiff inducing change up. After August he continued to increase the usage and reliance on his change up. In September and October his changeup usage was up to 40.0%. He had ditched the cutter (1.43% usage) that was his main secondary pitch while with the Mariners.
The whiffs kept coming as the usage increased. For the final month plus of the season he saw an absurd 36.9% whiff rate on the changeup.
There are a lot of question marks in the bullpen and Farquhar is included. The year to year performance of relievers vary so much due to the small sample size nature of the job. Steamer and ZiPS both project a 3.92 FIP while their ERA projections are close at 3.73 and 3.79. That’s an effective reliever, but one you’d like to see better performance out of in high leverage.
To have the bullpen be effective as a group they will need a guy to step up and out perform their expectations. The Rays have brought in a handful of guys who have done it in the past. At least one of them will have to perform well enough to help Colome with the high leverage work. If Farquhar continues to get swings and misses with the change up he could be that guy like he was in the second half.